How documents are managed
In an eTrial, documents are managed through the eCourtbook, a secure, user-friendly web portal for documents relevant to a court hearing. The portal enables the judge, counsel and instructing solicitors to share, view and search documents 24 hours a day before and during a trial.
Queensland Courts establishes an eCourtbook portal and provides all infrastructure at no cost to legal parties.
The eCourtbook uses the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which provides secure access for all users.
Parties can nominate contacts to receive an eCourtbook internet address and password. They are responsible for keeping their password secure. (Contact the eTrial Registrar at email@example.com to change the password.)
Access to the eCourtbook is ‘read only’, so documents can’t be deleted or altered.
Before preparing materials, as early as possible, practitioners must contact the eTrials Registrar to determine resources availability.
Then they simply:
- list document details on a spreadsheet
- scan documents as fully text-searchable, multi-page PDFs (which are more efficient than image formats, such as TIFF files, which aren’t searchable)
- supply these to the court on a CD/DVD.
Practice direction 10/2011 - Use of technology for the efficient management of documents in litigation provides information and guidance on documents management protocols.
Note: Adding a document to the eCourtbook does not make it evidence. Documents should be tendered and entered into evidence in the normal way. When an electronic document is tendered as evidence, the judge's associate marks it as an exhibit. The eCourtbook lists all documents marked as exhibits.
Updating or changing information
You’re unable to update any information in the eCourtbook yourself. The judge's associate is responsible for any changes to the eCourtbook data throughout the trial. Coordinate any changes required through them.
Similarly, the judge’s associate can amend errors in document descriptions if all parties agree. Email full details of the proposed changes to the parties and have them send the associate their consent. Once all parties have consented, the associate will make the changes.
The judge’s associate may upload additional documents during the trial. You can provide documents on CD/DVD or USB key, or email them to the associate each morning of the trial.
The eCourtbook incorporates a facility to upload daily transcripts, which are also fully text-searchable. As with paper-based procedures, each party must organise the transcripts through the Auscript Australasia and pay the usual fees.
Integrating with other products
The eCourtbook integrates with, and complements commercially available document management and case preparation systems. It can import data exported from commercial products in .csv or Microsoft Excel™ format, and perform a bulk import of PDF documents exported from commercial document management systems.
Queensland Courts supports the use of commercially available alternatives if they are more cost effective, and satisfy the court's requirements and the litigants’ needs.
It may be impractical to scan or produce some documents as searchable PDFs, such as large format plans. Additionally, you may wish to tender some documents in their original or format for forensic reasons.
These exhibits can still be viewed in court using a ‘visualiser’, similar to a document camera. The judge's associate can record paper documents in the electronic exhibit list to prevent gaps in exhibit numbering.
Contact the eTrials Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries about this.
At the pre-trial conference, the eTrials Registrar discusses training options with parties. A one-hour training session, provided by Queensland Courts staff before the trial, is usually enough for most people to confidently use the system.
What is Courtview?
Courtview is the screen output from a PC that can be viewed via all other screens in the court. Courtview is usually generated by the associate's computer. However, control of Courtview can be switched to parties at the bar table if needed, enabling parties to present their evidence.
Parties may be able to connect their computers to Courtview to present evidence using specific software not installed on the court computers (such as applications that are custom-built or from a non-Windows platform). Contact the eTrials Registrar about this before the trial.
While witnesses can’t usually access the eCourtbook, the witness stand has a monitor where they can see the Courtview. They can use a mouse to scroll through the document in Courtview to locate and highlight sections relevant to their testimony.