Use of Means of Electronic Communication in the Administration of Justice, Wroclaw, Poland, 13-14 June 2003
By Agata Jaroszek and Rafal Cisek
From 13 to 14 June 2003 an international conference on 'Use of means of electronic communication in the administration of justice' was held at the Wroclaw Circuit Court and the Faculty of Law, Administration and Economics of the University of Wroclaw. The conference was co-organized by the Research Centre of Legal and Economic Issues of Electronic Communication, the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Poland, Wroclaw Circuit Court, 'Iustitia' Judicial Training Centre Foundation, and the Notary Scientific Centre Foundation. Technical assistance for the event was provided by New Technologies Service-NewMedia and the Polish Professional Publishers Ltd  .
The conference's central theme was Information Technology developments in service of the judiciary. As far as the process of informatization of public institutions is concerned Polish courts lag behind. Therefore, there is a great need to change the status quo and help judges to get familiar with IT solutions that aim at improving the daily work of judges and the court administration. That opinion was shared by Tadeusz Wolek, the Undersecretary of the State of the Ministry of Justice, who in his opening speech said that 'Information Technology shouldn't been seen as a luxury or a fashion chase anymore, because it has become a pure necessity.'
The conference brought together about 160 participants, including both practitioners and scientists, but judges were in the majority. The organizers had the great honour to host the Supreme Court of Justice Judge Teresa Romer and judges from Germany and the Czech Republic.
The invitation to the conference was accepted by university authorities and excellent university researchers. The authorities of the University of Wroclaw were represented by the Vice Rector for Scientific Research and Foreign Relations Prof. Dr hab. Krzysztof Wójtowicz and the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Law, Administration and Economics Dr hab. Wlodzimierz Gromski.
Among the excellent scientists and experts in the field of ICT law there were Prof. Dr hab. Ryszard Jaworski, Prof. Dr hab. Zdzislaw Kegel, director of CBKE Dr hab. Jacek Golaczynski, Dr Jerzy Jacyszyn from the University of Wroclaw, and Prof. Dr Joost Breuker from the University of Amsterdam.
The first day was dedicated to theoretical issues. Judge Teresa Romer talked about the ethical aspects of using IT developments in the judiciary. She paid special attention to the issue of the authority of a judge and warned against the danger of dehumanizing the decision-making process by automating it. In her final remarks, Judge Romer pointed out that the dehumanization of the judiciary in Poland was not directly related to the use of modern technologies. She reminded the audience that on the contrary the symptoms of the dehumanization of the judiciary had long been noticed in the court system, for instance, in long delays preparing documents, one of the primary reasons behind the country's slow legal proceedings.
The Head of the National Court Register and IT Department of the Ministry of Justice, Rafal Czubik, spoke next. He discussed the the predicted longer-term impacts of IT on court administration. The third lecture was dealt both with modern court reporting and distance interpreting methods. The discussion was presented in an interesting way by Judge Dariusz Sielicki from the National Court Register and IT Department of the Ministry of Justice. He payed special attention to one of the Polish court system's most innovative reporting methods: computer supported court reporting, which in Poland involves not only the the digital recording of trials but also the use of computer speech recognition technology by clerks who repeat the proceedings of the trial into a a special mask connected to a computer which then transcribes the clerk's speech into a text. Judge D. Sielicki is the author of one of the programmes ('Tabula') that at present is being tested by the Ministry of Justice.
The conference also included presentations by representatives of law firms (solicitors and notaries) currently working with judges. For instance, legal advisor Jaroslaw Peplinski prepared a presentation on 'Communication between a modern law firm and courts. What do lawyers need from a modern court management?' Prosecutor Andrzej Jacek Kaucz of the National Prosecutor's office discussed ways of implementing IT in the prosecutor's office. Dr Jerzy Jacyszyn and Dr hab. Jacek Golaczynski from the University of Wroclaw discussed using electronic signatures and means of electronic communication in notary practice and in civil court proceedings. According to Dr Jacyszyn, notaries do not use electronic signatures on a regular basis in Poland. In his opinion this derived mainly from the fact that that they lack opportunities to practice using the technology, but he also pointed to other contributing factors to this situation such as the fragmented nature of the legal framework, especially in regards to electronic documents and electronic procedures of document authentication and personal identification. Fortunately, a legal act concerning electronic notary deeds is presently being prepared in Poland.
Judge of the Wroclaw Circuit Court Jacek Golaczynski then discussed the technical and legal problems involved in carrying out a civil trial electronically. He noted that although Article 125 of the Polish Civil Procedure Code permits the filing of documents electronically the Code is silent about the filing of cases in an electronic form involving simplified procedures.
Three lectures were also presented by foreign experts in the field of IT law. Professor Joost Breuker from the University of Amsterdam presented a paper on the principles of the E-court project of the European Commission. Poland is currently one of the members of the e-Court project. The project aims to introduce innovation and transnational harmonization into the field of justice management within the Member States and Associated Countries. An 'e-Court' project coordinator, Filippo Cunsolo, then discussed the audio-video recording methods used in Italian courts. The third and final lecture was by Abdullatif Elhag from the University of Amsterdam who presnted an overview of the support in the judiciary in Europe for the 'e-Court' project. All the lectures were translated simultaneously and this helped to create a very passionate panel discussion afterwards.
On the second day the participants at the conference were given an opportunity to take part in a mock criminal trial prepared by Judge D. Sielicki and performed by young lawyers presently serving apprenticeships with Polish judges. The scenario was as follows: a hypothetical defendant is charged with entering a record on hard disks of thousands of PC's belonging to hypothetical internet users all over the world. Throughout the mock trial the participants discussed how practically speaking IT developments could be put to use in the proceedings. During the trial itself the giving of evidence was supported by multimedia presentations. A public prosecutor and one of the witnesses – a policeman working in the Cybercrime Department of the Central Investigation Office - also explained the technical aspects of 'Internet investigation' using a laptop and an overhead projector. The visualization was designed to illustrate the way in which the prosecutor and the policeman were able to trace the activities of the cybercriminal on servers located all over the world.
1. A witness from another Polish city being questioned at a distance
2. Telephone Translation
3. Translator's Booth at the Local Court
One of the witnesses living in another Polish city was connected to the court room by means of videoconferencing. Videoconferencing made it possible for all the participants at the trial to see and hear the witness. More importantly, as far as "the direct contact principle" is concerned, it also enabled the judges and defenders to ask questions and observe the witness's non-verbal reactions. During the trial, it emerged that the officers responsible for providing information and facts to the prosecutor had a hard time establishing the identities of the Internet users they were investigating. This was an effort to show that cybercrime cases are often based on pure conjecture: in a majority of cases the victims of cybercrime are anonymous and evidence (for instance server logs) is essentially of an 'immaterial nature'.
As far as witness questioning was concerned foreign witnesses involved in the case were being interrogated using telephone translation. A simultaneous telephone translation was being carried out by an interpreter who was speaking to the witness and to the judges. Overall, the technologies used during the mock trial contributed a great deal to the efficiency of the court proceedings.
The conference proved that the motto of Court is very true in Polish Courts today: 'The delay of justice ... is a denial of justice.  Now, it is a high time the Polish judiciary took the needed measures to address that denial of justice.
They can be reached at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
 Poland was one of the partners of ECourt project – the key action 'Systems and Services for the Citizen' and line of acttion 'Smart Government2005-2010'. For more information visit <http://www.intrasoft-intl.com/e-court>.
This is a Conference Report published on 30 April 2004.
Citation: Jaroszek and Cisek, 'Use of Means of Electronic Communication in the Administration of Justice, Wroclaw, Poland, 13-14 June 2003 ', 2004 (1) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/04-1/jaroszekandcisek.html>. New citation as at 15/07/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2004_1/jaroszek/>.