Digital Justice In Mexico
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
Author : Ricardo Olvera
The pandemic presents a big problem but also a big opportunity. One of the biggest issues that Mexico presently faces is justice delivery. Most public activities are yet to be reinstated and the courts are not the exception.
Crimes, private concerns, and the abuse of authority by organizations does not stop automatically stop when a pandemic strikes. In this context, we must transition into a new format of delivering justice, supported by technology and the digital tools. However, we must see the same from the perspective of accessibility to justice as the devices required to access digital judicial services may not be available to all. In Mexico, some courts have increased their use of the digital devices for the settlement of a multitude of disputes. Some of these new tools include online trial audiences in order to maintain transparency. Systems of electronic official notifications and authenticity digital sign have also been introduced.
Prior to the pandemic, the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice attempted to facilitate the use of technology in court proceedings, similar to the attempt by the Federal Court of Administrative Justice which advocated for an online trial. Despite such ambitious attempts, this modality could not be used effectively as most lawyers were not trained to use these tools. Whenever there is a call for substantive change, it finds resistance and opposing voices which attempt to delegitimize the change. In a healthy democracy, such voices must propose alternative solutions and work together with those in power to make the lives of citizens better. Many stakeholders are worried about this challenge of delivering justice by online means while ensuring its accessibility to those concerned. Senator Julio Menchaca Salazar, the President of the Justice Committee in the Mexican Senate is leading from the front to find an amicable arrangement acceptable to all stakeholders. He is presently working to build a meaningful relationship with the lawyers’ associations and all other stakeholders participating in the process to make online judicial systems more inclusive. He firmly believes that the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice and various courts of all the States must create a legitimate structure that guarantees a prompt, expeditious and impartial trial envisaged in Article 17 of the Politic Constitution of the United Mexican States. There must exist sufficient political will and determination in response to all adversity for creating such a structure.
A constitutional and law reform is necessary prior to introducing electronic notifications and technological modalities to replace proper judicial procedures. A strong infrastructure for online systems must be created immediately. Even though there are some legislative initiatives introduced towards this path, a change in the Constitution shall also be required. The Constitution of Mexico is the most important document that gives life to the entire administrative and judicial machinery of the country. There must be a change in the Constitution to introduce the new system of digital depositions and then the State legislatures may make changes to the procedure according to their requirements.
Personal data protection and privacy is another important aspect with respect to online hearings. There is an inherent need to balance privacy concerns of the parties along with maintaining transparency with the general public. The trial audiences in the presence of the complainant, the defendant and the judge have been created to ensure transparency with the general public. There have many cyber-attacks during court proceedings to disrupt the process. Unless encryption of judicial proceedings and privacy of the parties is ensured, it will be difficult to go ahead with the process online.
The accessibility aspect is also extremely important. 47.3% of the population of Mexico does not have access to the internet, leave expensive computers and web cameras that are required in online judicial proceedings. This shall create a disproportionate impact on senior citizens, poor people and the disabled.
The objective of delivering justice online has been crystallized in the minds of the entire legal fraternity. We must fulfil this ambition by building effective law tools to ensure a safe, private yet transparent, and accessible online judicial system. We must participate in lively discussions in order to make effective change in policies. We must make our voices heard and make change by democratic means.