FIRST ONLINE COURT TRIAL IN TIMES OF CORONAVIRUS (in Spain)


It was about the custody of a minor in a divorce case in the city of Barbastro, located in the province of Huesca, Spain. The dad requested the full custody of the child saying that his daughter was at risk due to the mom’s profession, a full-time nurse in the epicenter of COVID-19. The case is still pending resolution.

This case, was considered “urgent”, and could be the first trial of many others to come. So, now we have another term to analyze: “urgent”. It was said that this case was considered urgent, because it was about a minor; but what else could be considered urgent? Who will be responsible for taking this decision? What’s the criteria to categorize a legal case as urgent? Does the judiciary system pretend to use the same urgent-important matrix used in time management for prioritizing, based on the level of urgency and importance of each task; for legal cases?

In times of Coronavirus, during the state of alarm, the justice system has been paralyzed as almost all the legal cases have been postponed. Others, at least in the United States, have been taking place over Zoom. It’s an unprecedented moment for the justice system, but a necessary evil to avoid unnecessary risks for those in detention. Postponing a hearing means spending more time in jail (with other prisoners who might have the virus), while appearing in person could put the individual and those around them at risk of contagion.

This represents that the justice system will need to adapt to new technology and to change, such as the way to access to the virtual court from home (in the case of the attorneys and the prosecutor); to take care of the quality of light, to count with a stable and high speed internet connection, and of course state-of-the art equipment, and why not, be aware of the dress code and the background when connecting.

Are we ready for all this? Will there be transparency? What if the hearings are interrupted due to bad internet connections; what will happen then? What is less damaging, waiting for who knows how long, to start/continue with your case, or just go for it online? Will all the cases have the opportunity to be resolved online, or just the urgent ones? If that’s the case, again, who will take that decision?

Food for thought

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