On 27 September 2019 the Honourable Judge President MLAMBO addressed a presentation to the legal community on the implementation of CASELINES, the digital court management platform which is going to change the way courts function in South Africa, forever. For those who could not make it, we hope this article serves as a proper summary of what we can expect in our courts, soon.
What is CASELINES?
A digital case management and filing system, by which cases will no longer be handled on paper, but through means of an online platform. In a previous article, we outlined the system and its stated aims, but now we have a far clearer picture of how it will function and when. The Judge President enthusiastically described the innovation as an “access to justice enabler.”
Effectively, the platform takes the place of the registrar’s office, allowing for legal practitioners to submit pleadings, applications, notices, evidence (pictures and videos) and all other items which would ordinarily find their way into a court file. The platform is secure, with cloud-based storage allowing for all the key roles within the court’s functioning to be handled digitally. Hearing dates and the issuing of case numbers will still need to be obtained from the registrar, but the contents of the court file will all be digital.
When & Where will it start?
The 4th Quarter, which begins 07 October 2019, will see the pilot project being implemented in Gauteng High Courts only. The platform will only apply, at this stage, to Opposed Motions which are already on the roll. The Judge President requests that practitioners involved in those matters assist the Registrar by scanning and filing their bundles in these matters. It will also be helpful to familiarise yourself with the mechanism of the system as each practitioner in these courts will have to register their profile on the platform. A user-guide is provided on registration. From 2020, the plan is for the entire court’s function to be moved through CASELINES, with the system being rolled out to other courts in time.
As a digital court management platform, it has been used in England and several other jurisdictions. The stated aim is to reduce the queues and crowding in court precincts. The Judge President has a vision of courts where practitioners need only attend court to argue, run trial and note judgments, with far less crowding. The masses of paper accumulated by the courts will also be reduced significantly. A startling indication of this problem was the statement that the space of roughly 5 rugby fields could be filled with all the court files in Gauteng. The platform will enable efficiencies and allow for effectiveness in the court system, by virtually eliminating the long standing problem of files being lost, stolen or misplaced. Fraudulent court orders are likely to be reduced significantly too. Perhaps most appealing, is the need for indexing and pagination falling away almost entirely! This function is built into the platform, as documents are uploaded.
How does it work?
Registration on the system is not done per firm, but per person. Each case is referenced through its case number, as allocated by the Registrar of the particular division. When initiating a matter, the practitioner is invited into the particular case’s portal, by means of an email link. This practitioner can then invite their counsel and other legal practitioners involved. If your client is served with a process, then an invite to that case’s portal will need to be obtained from the opposing attorney, or the registrar. Members of the public who wish to view a case file will be assisted by the Registrar to do so. Every activity of the practitioner on a case is logged. So if you file your discovery affidavit, the system can tell when and by whom this was done. Once ready for hearing, a hearing date is requested in the usual way, with the particular case then accessed by the Senior Judge, who allocates the matter to the particular judge attending to that roll.
The Judge President emphasised the need for practitioners to get on board, lead by example and encourage others in using the platform. Taking laptops to court, taking notes,making use of digital diaries, participation in online forums, online research and the like to embrace this change.
For those who wish to register so long and get up to speed, here is the link. We look forward to the implementation of this most innovative system!
For any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.