Manitoba courts finally getting to electronic filing

Manitoba has moved one step closer to paperless courts after its Justice Minister proposed legislation that would allow electronic documents to be created and filed with the Provincial Court.

Amendments to the Provincial Court Act sponsored by Justice Minister Andrew Swan would recognize electronic signatures, and allow Crown lawyers to take electronic sworn statements from police agencies.

Swan said the move would increase the speed of court processes compared with the predominantly paper-based current system.

“Technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. We want to ensure that we use all the tools available to us to make the justice system more effective,” Swan said in a statement. ”We want our police to spend less time on paperwork and more time keeping our communities safe.”

Kathy Bueti, a senior partner at criminal defence firm Bueti-Wasyliw and Associates, is the designated defence counsel for a pilot project that plans to take advantage of the amendments, and says she can’t wait to get going.

“We’re hoping it’s going to expedite things, and save a lot of time in the filing of documents. Instead of sending someone out to the courthouse, to stand in line and file the documents with the staff, you’re going to be able to do it electronically from your desk,” says Bueti. “This is a project that’s been in the works for 10 to 20 years, with the aim of getting a paperless courtroom. We’re finally entering the endgame, where some of the ideas are getting implemented, so it’s exciting times.”

The pilot project is in association with Legal Data Resources (Manitoba) Corporation (http://www.ldrc.org/), a non-profit established by the Law Society of Manitoba, which previously led an effort to install Wi-Fi systems in courts for lawyers.

“The documents go to the court’s central registry, just as they would if you went there in person,” says Bueti. “It’s exactly the same document, except it’s getting there in a different way. The first filing was done in the last couple of months as a test.”

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