Help! Italy has too many types of digital trials


And Italian Courts are having too much of a good thing.

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In Italy today there are eight different types of “Telematic Trial” platforms and related regulations (Civil, Administrative, Fiscal, Criminal, Court of Auditors, Cassation, Sports, Constitutional Court). Thanks to the pandemic, digitization has started to appear even in the offices of Justices of Peace.

Theoretically, this should be good. Instead, it’s superfetation

This is a huge waste of public money, as well as of energy and time for lawyers: each kind of trial must be used, maintained and (paying, of course) regularly upgraded independently from all the others. Inefficiency rules.

Each of those platforms for digital management of trials has its own rules and defects, usually because designed by people for whom “digital” means nothing more that “let’s do exactly the same things as before, with exactly the same workflows, just using like a typewriter some computer connected to a printer”. This creates a so-called “telematic trial litigation”, that slows down the work of judges and worsens the state of justice in Italy.

“Thanks” to this sort of digitization, both lawyers and judges still struggle: authentic copies, executive copies, certificates of conformity, electronic envelopes, matching between documents and their master digital “file”. All stuff that is nothing but outdated vestiges of a wrong way of conceiving public trials.

The arrival of digital technologies should have sparked a full reboot of all levels and procedures of each trial. What happened, instead, is “superfetation”, that is “the simultaneous occurrence of more than one stage of developing offspring in the same animal.”.

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Why, oh why can’t Italy be like…

While Italy’s courts are in this dire state, Estonia (see here and here) uses since 2006 a single “information management system” that handles all kinds of trial, including purely administrative ones, with customizations, but centrally managed, for litigation in each type of trial.

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One single system for all trials is a big deal. Among many other things, for example, it turns upside down the very concept of “attaching” documents to any trial procedure, or of requesting that documents are attached.

Because, once a document enters the system, from any venue, it’s there, and whoever has the right access permissions can see it, no questions asked: a lawyer just clicks on “link this document to this trial”, and it’s done. Another world, really.

Who says so, and above all: how to fix this mess?

The text above this paragraph is my own synthesis, with his permission, of a Facebook post by italian lawyer Giovanni Mameli. It got enough support to inspire the creation of a Facebook Group to promote a unified digital platform for all kinds of trials in Italy, and gather as much public support for the idea that lawmakers cannot continue to ignore it.

One word about Estonia, if I may…

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In Italy, it is a popular activity to quote Estonia as the paradise and ultimate reference for all kinds of public services, from e-voting to digital public administration and broadband services. Me, I am quite skeptical of such comparisons, and try to avoid any form of “Why isn’t Italy more like Estonia???”. Not because Estonia is bad, but because it is quite a different playground: forty times less people, smaller and almost flat terrain, services and infrastructures (re)built almost from scratch just a few decades ago after leaving the USSR… it’s really apples and oranges, in most cases.

… and a call for help

Here is a request for all lawyers and judges, primarily (but not exclusively) inside the European Union, that is the same legal “meta-framework” as Italy: please send me links to reports, best practices, real-world examples, success stories etc… about already working platforms for digital management of trials, that could be at least partially reused in Italy. I will collect what I get in future posts, immediately available to the group co-founded by Mamely, and to everybody else who may need it. Looking forward to receive material, and thanks in advance for any contribution!

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