As society changes, the criminal justice system must also change. As the criminal justice system changes it is important to identify areas of the court system that needs changes. Portions of the court system facing changes are the way courts are managed including their problems and resolutions. Victim’s rights have emerged as a new trend in the courts as victims are given the rights to intervene in cases, prior to sentencing. In the future, the courts face a loss of cases to a potential private sector of courts such as arbitration and mediation. These changes and issues should be understood in order for the courts to match the emerging trends. The courts are an important piece of the criminal justice system. The courts continue to evolve to meet the demands of the criminal justice system, as new processes and trends emerge.
This paper will explore future court management issues in relation to technological innovations and the problems with new technology in the courts. Additionally, victim rights going forward and the impact they have on court proceedings. The biggest issue facing courts in the future will be the potential division between the courts and the private law sector. It is important to note the technological innovations that impact court staff and judges. One of the most important aspects of a successful public court system is access to justice. Access to justice using technological innovations includes the use of electronic filings (Brunson, 2012). Courts and those who work with the courts can use technology in many routine activities. These can include the e-filing of documents, court standardizations, court management, document management, electronic discovery and access to documents (Brunson, 2012).
According to the National Center for State Courts, 26 states have adopted court rules enabling e-filing statewide or in at least one court, and it is anticipated that federal trials, and several appellate courts will offer e-filing” (Brunson, 2012, pg. 3). E-filing gives the ability to legal counsel to submit their documents electronically which will cut down on costs and decrease the time to file. Also allowing electronic filing will enable courts in different jurisdictions easy access to documents (Brunson, 2012).An electronic court management system will allow judges to track information of complex court cases decreasing the chance of errors based on missed information. Also a court could take advantage of electronic notifications when dealing with citizens and counsel in alerting them of scheduled proceedings and the obtainment of new information. The potential problem of using electronic court systems is security. As new software emerges, it includes errors in the set up and security.
There is a possibility that information of the courts that is available in electronic form can be obtained by individuals outside the court system. Thorough testing is the best solution for providing stable software with strong security. Also the court will need access to technical staff, to support the new systems (Muraskin & Roberts, 2009).Another future trend in the court system is the impact of victim rights laws. The Victims’ Rights Act of 2004 expanded the involvement of victims throughout criminal proceedings. These expansions included the right of a victim to make a statement during the defendant’s trial, reasonable notice of any public proceedings relating to the crime, and to be present at any proceedings relating to a release from custody. With increased involvement by victims in court proceedings, suspects face a substantial increase of receiving maximum punishment under sentencing guidelines (Muraskin & Roberts, 2009).
Some argue that having a victim involved in the proceedings will have negative effects, including undermining the rights of the defendant, interfering with the case of the prosecution, and the shift from justice to vengeance, and personal emotion (Waller, 2009). If a victim was to respond to the court with more emotion than fact, the court may not be able to provide sentence or decision; without bias that could lead to a mistrial or rulings against the defendant. Also the victim may divulge false information or information that gives the defense the ability to use against the state. Conversely, some believe that focusing on harm to the victim should be included in the justice system alongside an innocent or guilty verdict. This can also include the right to have media allowed in the courtrooms to introduce the information of a case to the public. Victims can experience the importance of sharing their harm and the acts of the criminal with the public to raise awareness (Waller, 2009).
Perhaps the biggest issue facing court systems in the future is the victim’s movement to have their cases handled outside the court system, and through private systems like mediation or arbitration. Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party helps resolve a dispute. The mediator does not have the power to render a decision on the matter or order an outcome after which the parties may decide to pursue a lawsuit (US Legal, 2012). The use of mediation may not eliminate civil cases but may reduce the amount that go in front of a judge using court resources. Arbitration can be court ordered representatives that intercede to reach a bound ruling using simplified rules of evidence for witnesses. However, different types of cases are required to go to arbitration such as labor disputes (US Legal, 2012). The issue with private court systems concerns the validity of the ruling based on the ability of the mediators and arbitrators as well as the victims seeking their own interests (Walker & Katz, 2008).
Furthermore, prosecutors would have two clients, the government they represent as well as the client. “The role strain faced by assistant district attorneys was minimal until victims began to exercise their recently granted rights and started to conceive of their personal interests as being separate from those of the bureaucracy that furnished them with a lawyer at no cost to them” (Walker & Katz, 2008, pg. 247). Prosecutors often choose to side with their governmental agency rather than the person they represent. The court system is facing new issues and trends in the future. The court management system is moving to more electronic methods of handling case information and filings. The fallout from the Victims’ Rights Act of 2004 will affect the courts as well.
Victims have expanded powers in court proceedings and may have the ability to change verdicts, sentencing or undermine the rights of the defendant including the right to privacy. The biggest issue facing the courts of the future may be an increased use of private dispute resolution. These methods include arbitration and mediation and have problems as well. With any change to a court system, problems will exist and new trends and technologies force the courts to adapt to these. Changes to the courts will continue to change as laws and rights evolve, technology continues to evolve, and cost-savings methods evolve.
Brunson, W. (2012, December). A Technologically Gifted Court Futures Watch: Emerging Trends for Courts. Retrieved from http://www.nasje.org Muraskin, R. T., & Roberts, A. R. (2009). Visions for Change: Crime and Justice in the Twenty-First Century (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. US Legal. (2012,December). Private Court Law. Retrieved from http://www.uslegal.com Walker, S., & Kratz, C. M. (2008). The Police in America: An Introduction. New York, NJ: McGraw-Hill. Waller, B. N. (2009). You Decide! Current Debates in Criminal Justice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.