Administration of justice cannot depend on a lawyer having previously disclosed his email address
By Antonis Glykis
For some, the above title is hard to conceive, even today. But the advent of the pandemic was required to cause all of us, the State, the Supreme Court and lawyers, to face the monster of bureaucracy which was causing further delays in the delivery of justice in Cyprus, as well as to provide a spur to make us carry out what should have been obvious actions.
A few colleagues had raised the issue of E-Justice and participated in discussions on it. Many didn’t even believe that such an effort could have a positive outcome, others objected to the concept, but from now on – and we need to realise it – some things will make their way to the fore, just like in any other well-ordered societies.
In short, in relation to the provisions of the abovementioned Procedural Rules, if the Court deems it appropriate and the parties consent, their case may be heard in their absence. In my humble opinion, it is exaggerated for the Court to have such a discretion as to whether the necessary consensus of the parties is convenient, or at least “convenient” should be interpreted in a constructive interpretation, which I comprehend up to a point, but, in no case, should it not be achieved for an unjustified reason.
The party is therefore given the opportunity to submit his request by e-mail, two days before the date on which the case is set before the Court, and to notify this request to all the parties.
The Court, as long as the parties’ e-mail addresses are known to the Registrar, may contact the parties or issue instructions addressed to the parties by e-mail. My suggestion is that, with the issuance of the annual license, lawyers should make their e-mail addresses known to the Cyprus Bar Association. The issuance of instructions, the handling of a case and the administration of justice cannot depend on whether the lawyer had disclosed his e-mail address to the appropriate bodies.
In the same way, unfortunately, the general handling of a case without the appearance of the parties before the Court depends on the correct submission of the request. The issuance of an order for the payment of legal costs against the party submitting the request in breach of the provisions of the Procedural Rules, would perhaps be a more correct consideration of the whole procedure.
The cases are managed by the Court through electronic messages and the Court gives instructions accordingly one day before the date on which the case is set. The possibility of the Court instructing a party to file written submissions and to notify the interim or final decision by e-mail (a procedure which is partly adopted today by some judges) is an excellent opportunity to proceed to the next stage of hearings fully performed by electronic means, which significantly upgrades the administration of justice.
Two small remarks. It is not possible, or better, it is not constructive, to link the electronic handling of a case to the instructions posted by the Court on the cases list, whatever that means. Neither is it logical for it to be mandatory for the parties to appear before the Court if a particular judge does not respond to the request submitted electronically by the parties. Lack of any response by the Court to any such electronic request does not reflect nor correspond to the Supreme Court’s role.
In addition to this positive development, let’s not forget that there is still a long and hard way to go to reach the day when, through modern technology, justice will be administered quickly and correctly. Improving access to information in the field of justice, the continuance of digitisation judicial and extrajudicial proceedings, the ensuring of technical implementation and management of e-justice systems for easier interconnection and interoperability between different states are all a necessary and continuous effort required to achieve the end goal.
I am glad, because in an earlier proposition of mine, in relation to the use of laptops by the majority of judges or the acquisition of this equipment with state or other assistance, which was deemed impractical by some, today with the issuance of the present Procedural Rules as well as the forthcoming amendment of the Civil Procedure Rules, the conditions and the culture are perhaps created for the faster completion of the procedural hearings and the hearings.
In conclusion, I believe that this development, even if for some it should have been already in place, is a very positive step forward. However, I find that the present Procedural Rules, although moving in the right direction, should be revised at some points. This would be to try to ensure that they don’t create uncorrectable distortions, which may be caused by the parties’ or judges’ inaction or reluctance, so as to allow all benefits expected from e-justice to finally become a reality.
Antonis Glykis is a partner at Elias Neocleous & Co LLC