Electronic trials (eTrials)
eTrials are conducted in the same way as paper-based trials and the same rules of evidence and procedure apply. The difference is that the documentary evidence is managed electronically and, during eTrials, documents are viewed via the courtroom monitors.
For this purpose, the Supreme and District Courts provide litigants with access to the eCourtbook - a free secure portal where documents can be stored, shared, viewed, and searched before and during the eTrial. Before the eTrial, all documents to be relied on by the parties are provided to the eTrials Team in full text-searchable PDF format for upload to the eCourtbook. Litigants are then provided with a login to access the portal.
An eTrial significantly reduces the time and costs spent on paper handling and copying and assists in ensuring that a trial proceeds quickly and efficiently. The eCourtbook provides:
- 24/7 access to the documentary evidence
- enhanced document search ability, including content searching
- capacity to organise and retrieve documents in a way that best suits all parties
Subject to the trial judge's approval, litigants may use an external provider to manage their eTrial. That provider will use its own technology and will be responsible for the functioning of that technology during the course of the eTrial
Making electronic disclosure
Alternative schedule to Form 19
In the Supreme Court, Practice Direction 18 of 2018 requires parties to litigation to provide copies of documents in the disclosure process as full text searchable, multi-page PDF files, unless there is a cost-effective and simpler alternative. According to Practice Direction 10 of 2011 , the Document Management Spreadsheet/Example Index/Alternative Schedule for Form 19 UCP (.xlsx, 21KB) is the default protocol for document disclosure. The parties should agree on what information should be given with respect to each document to be disclosed. The schedule can be exchanged in Word or Excel spreadsheet format and can be provided electronically or in hard copy.
If and when a proceeding is listed for an eTrial, parties can adapt and merge the alternative schedules created for the purpose of disclosure in order to produce the eCourtbook index - an Excel spreadsheet containing information about each electronic document to be relied on at trial. This is necessary to facilitate searching, collating, and locating documents in the eCourtbook during the period leading up to and during the eTrial.
The eTrial process
This flowchart provides a visual representation of the eTrial process in a civil proceeding.
1. Listing an eTrial
An eTrial may be listed:
- at a case conference.
- on application by the parties to the trial judge.
- by a judge at a review, directions hearing, or in the Applications list.
2. Before an eTrial
On listing of an eTrial the eTrials Team will organise a one-hour training session in a courtroom equipped with eTrial facilities to inform the parties about:
- how to prepare documents for upload to the eCourtbook
- the effective use of the eCourtbook in the leading up to and during an eTrial.
At least two weeks before an eTrial commences, the parties will provide the eTrials Team with a USB containing documentary evidence to be relied on at trial in full text searchable PDF format. The eTrials Team creates the eCourtbook and issues a login to each party, usually within 24 hours of receiving the documents.
This login provides read-only access to the eCourtbook. Parties must contact the eTrials Team by email to request any changes to the eCourtbook's contents.
3. During an eTrial
On commencement of an eTrial the associate to the trial judge assumes responsibility for the eCourtbook, makes changes to the eCourtbook as required, displays documents called for by the parties, and manages documents as they are marked for identification or as an exhibit.
4. After an eTrial
At the conclusion of an eTrial, and once any appeal period has lapsed, the eCourtbook is archived. Parties may obtain a copy of the archived eCourtbook by making an email request to the eTrials Team.
Should you wish to clarify or receive further information about the eTrials process, please contact the team at eTrials@courts.qld.gov.au.