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Attorney-General Launches New Commonwealth Courts Legal Portal - 17 June 2008

The Commonwealth Courts Portal provides web-based services for clients to access information about cases before the Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia.

This post is not so much about a change in Australian Family Law, but there is currently no forum for general Family Law news, information and developments.

The Commonwealth Courts Portal is an initiative of the Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. It provides web-based services for clients to access information about cases before the courts.

Commonwealth Courts Portal - Login page
Commonwealth Courts Portal - Login page


ATTORNEY-GENERAL SPEECH TO LAUNCH OF COMMONWEALTH COURTS PORTAL

From: AG Media Releases
To: AG Media Releases
Subject: ATTORNEY-GENERAL SPEECH TO LAUNCH OF COMMONWEALTH COURTS PORTAL. [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2008 22:34:14

ATTORNEY-GENERAL SPEECH TO LAUNCH OF COMMONWEALTH COURTS PORTAL

ATTORNEY-GENERAL
THE HON ROBERT McCLELLAND MP

Launch

Commonwealth Courts Portal


Judges' Conference Room
Level 16, Federal Court of Australia
Commonwealth Law Courts Building,
305 William Street, Melbourne

Tuesday, 17 June 2008, 9.30 am

Acknowledgements

- Chief Justice Diana Bryant - Family Court of Australia
- Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe
- Acting Chief Justice Peter Gray - Federal Court of Australia
- Distinguished guests all

Introduction

1. Thank you for your welcome this morning.

I am delighted to be here to launch the Commonwealth Courts Portal - and to thank the courts for their collaborative efforts.

2. There is a theme that permeates this occasion. And it is that the law should surely be accessible at all times and to everyone.

3. The rule of law requires not only that laws be fair and just, but also that the community properly understands those laws. That is why technology is such an important tool in creating new pathways to access justice.

4. In particular, the internet has changed the way in which courts and lawyers have operated for centuries and presented new opportunities for increasing access to justice. While open justice has long been a fundamental principle of our legal system, it has been the internet which has really thrown open courts' doors to the public.

5. That this change has occurred in the matter of years has been all the more remarkable. The internet is now part of every aspect of our lives but it was only six years ago that the High Court first wrestled with the technicalities of the internet revolution in the Dow Jones v Gutnick case.

"For present purposes, it is convenient to adopt what was said in that evidence without diverting to consider what qualification to, or amplification of, that evidence might be necessary to give a complete and entirely accurate description of the Internet or the World Wide Web. The World Wide Web is but one particular service available over the Internet. It enables a document to be stored in such a way on one computer connected to the Internet that a person using another computer connected to the Internet can request and receive a copy of the document.

6. Such explanations seem almost quaint in an age where now most people think little about how so much information is only a click away.

7. In the law, the AUSTLII website has been an important tool to greatly increase Australians' understanding of and confidence in the justice system by making court judgments easily accessible. I am grateful that AUSTLII's importance has been recognised by the Australian legal profession through their willingness to dig deep and support it in its hour of need. I am confident that willingness to support AUSTLII will continue.

Technological advances

8. In a similar way to AUSTLII, this portal facility will assist in creating a new pathway to access justice.

9. All of us who have worked in the law know that an effective justice system requires the continual development of more efficient ways to progress litigation - from filing to finalisation. The courts portal proves the point.

10. I am certain that practitioners and courts will enthusiastically embrace this new web-based service.

For a start it will streamline the delivery of court services and allow easy access to filed documents.

Access to justice for litigants

11. The Portal also goes a further step - and will enable greater access to the law for litigants.

12. The 'e-Search' facility, initiated in the Federal Court and the federal law jurisdiction of the FMC, also allows court users to track the progress of matters online.

13. Such resources would have been unthinkable just twenty years ago.

14. The Portal proves that technology can assist in streamlining court processes. But it's also important that traditional court registries continue striving to improve access to justice for court users.

15. This is happening.

16. I have been encouraged by initiatives such as the Combined Registry Project in the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court.

This included the production of a joint application form to streamline the process of filing family law matters.

17. Litigants are now also able to file general federal law applications in family law registries.

18. This initiative began as a pilot in a number of regional locations and is being rolled out across Australia.

It allows for the seamless filing of applications, reduces confusion and frustration for litigants, and ultimately cuts costs.

19. For these good reasons, it's an initiative that the Government strongly supports.

Access to justice through ADR processes

20. Recently I announced proposals to strengthen model litigant obligations to ensure that government lawyers do all they can to resolve Government disputes without going to court.

21. I am serious about maximising opportunities for alternative dispute resolution to remove impediments to prompt dispute resolution and to keep a check on litigation costs.

22. However, when disputes cannot be resolved outside the courts, better use of technology in legal proceedings will help to reduce costs and facilitate access to justice.

Mega-litigation

23. But there's more to be achieved - greater efficiencies to be drawn upon.

24. Take for example so-called 'mega-litigation' cases.

25. Many of you have first hand experience of those large commercial disputes with complex legal issues, multiple parties, numerous lawyers, thousands of documents and hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence.

26. Mega-litigation consumes a disproportionate amount of our court resources - resources paid for by the public.

27. In such cases technology could make a difference. Reducing the strain on resources by allowing documents to be lodged online, or for hearings to be held electronically, is a worthy goal.

28. The courts are examining these services for the future - and I commend their work. This portal is the start not the end point for the kind of court services that can be provided through the internet. As I indicated at the beginning of this speech, the principle of open justice is a fundamental principle of our system of law. We must look at new ways of putting that principle into practice.

Conclusion

29. As to today and the progress already made, I applaud the intent of the portal project, and the benefits that will flow.

30. Let me say that having a gateway is one thing - knowing how to open the gate and provide access is the intelligent bit.

31. And so I congratulate the Chief Justices, the Chief Federal Magistrate, their staff and members of the legal profession for developing the project.

I wish them well in seeing it through to its ultimate application.

ENDS


The Commonwealth Courts Portal

http://www.comcourts.gov.au/
https://www.comcourts.gov.au/access/login

The Commonwealth Courts Portal is an initiative of the Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. It provides web-based services for clients to access information about cases before the courts.

Please note this website is designed for optimal viewing in 1024 x 768 resolution.

If you have already registered, please enter your User Name and Password to Login

If you have not registered, you will need to Register Now


About the Commonwealth Courts Portal site

About this site

What is the Commonwealth Courts Portal?

The Commonwealth Courts Portal is an initiative of the Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. It provides web-based services for clients to access information about cases before the courts. Individuals and lawyers can keep track of their cases, including documents filed and upcoming court events, as well as outcomes of court events and any orders made.

Do I need to register?

In order to gain access to specific file information you will need to register.

Once you are registered, and if you are employed by a law firm or government agency, you can apply to the Portal Administrator in your organisation to link your Portal account to your files (see How do I get access to My Files? below).

How do I register?

This is done at the Register screen. Be sure to use a valid email address that only you have access to. This will allow the courts to communicate with you should any issues arise, and also to receive a temporary password should you forget yours. Also be sure to choose a password and a Secret Question/Answer that only you could know (see Privacy & Security? below for more information on passwords and email security).

How do I register my organisation?

Once you have registered as an individual and logged into the Portal, you can register your organisation on the Organistion Administration page.

By registering your organisation you will become the Portal administrator for that organisation.

What is the role of an Administrator?

All Portal Organisations must have an administrator at all times. When registering a Portal Organisation, the person creating it will automatically be created as the administrator (note that this person must first register as an individual - see How do I register? above). The administrator can give other registered individuals access to the organisation's files, or to a specific subset of those files. The administrator can also give other registered individuals administrator privileges.

The administrator(s) is responsible for the security of the data provided to the organisation via the Portal. This means that the administrator must give file permissions only to those who are entitled to see those files, and must maintain the organisation's account so that individuals who are no longer entitled to file access have their permissions revoked, and individuals who leave the organisation are removed from the organisation's account. This responsibility is a condition of use that the administrator must sign up to upon registering for the Portal (see "Terms & Conditions of Use").

When an administrator leaves the organisation, they must first give another individual administrator privileges, and that new administrator can then remove the departing administrator from the organisation's account.

How do I get access to My Files?

For individuals (non-lawyers) - In the initial phase of the Portal, individuals not working for a law firm or government agency will not be able to access files via the Portal.

For employees of law firms & government agencies - You will need to register (see How do I register? above), and then contact your organisation administrator to provide them with your User Name. The administrator can then give you permissions to access all or some of the organisation's files as appropriate.

For organisation administrators - register your organisation here, then complete and submit the Request for Portal Administrator Access Form. Upon notification from the Court that access has been granted, you will then be able to link employees to your organisation's files.

Privacy & security?

Users registering for the portal are required to agree to the "Terms & Conditions of Use", which outline the responsibilities of users with access to court data. This includes protecting the security of your own account by not giving anyone else access to your password, ensuring your nominated email account is secure, and that the answer to your secret question is only known by you. The courts will ensure that only registered individuals with a legitimate right to access the information on a file are given permission to do so (except in the case of an organisation, where the organisation administrator agrees to assume that responsibility).

Terms & Conditions of Use:

The Commonwealth Courts Portal is an information system providing information about cases in the Federal Court, the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia "the Courts". Registration for use of the Portal, acquiring information by using the Portal and the use of that information is subject to your agreeing to the following conditions:

1. The Portal is an evolving system. There is no warranty that the information provided is complete and up to date or fit or sufficient for any purpose - users must carefully evaluate its accuracy, relevance, completeness and suitability for their use or purpose.

2. The information provided through the Portal is not the formal record of the Court in which each case is pending or in which it has been determined. It is a selection of information derived from that record.

3. The User may use information provided through the Portal for the purposes of litigation in which the user is involved as a party or legal representative. There is no right to use, reproduce and adapt the information or develop derivative products from the information or to use it for other purposes. Use and distribution of the information is subject to applicable legal restrictions. Section 121 of the Family Law Act makes it an offence to provide to the public or a section of the public an account of proceedings or of part of proceedings.

4. To the extent permitted by law the Courts exclude any and all warranties in respect of use of the Portal and downloading or use of information or any file through the Portal. The Courts do not warrant that any particular use of information provided through the Portal will not infringe the intellectual property rights of any other person or that use of the Portal will be harmless. Users assume the risk of using the Portal. The Courts' liability for breach of any statutory warranty is limited to the cost of provision again of the information.

5. The Courts control the operation of the Portal. There is no warranty that the Portal will be available at all times or at any particular time. Operation of the Portal may be suspended or terminated and your ability or that of anyone deriving through you, to use it may be suspended or withheld without the Courts being under any obligation to assign a reason or give notice.

6. If you provide access rights to the Portal to any other person, this will be subject to these conditions and you indemnify the Court in respect of that access. Such access must only be given to a person who, for the time being, acts as a professional advisor in the litigation the records of which are subject to the access.

7. The Courts reserve the right to amend these terms and conditions from time to time by varying them on this WebSite.

Speed the day when you can go into ANY registry and lodge your documents. They will not be posted, but loaded up onto the system and service is done electronically.... No more sneaky tricks of leaving it till the last minute to serve and having it "lost" in the post...

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
I've registered but other than registering an organisation, which requires an ABN, I don't appear to be able to do anything other than change my user details. The link to the three courts just take you to their websites, obviously it's early days yet though.

Technological advantage for legal industry

Attorney General said
How do I get access to My Files? For individuals (non-lawyers) - In the initial phase of the Portal, individuals not working for a law firm or government agency will not be able to access files via the Portal I read that as, "the legal industry will be advantaged until a future time".
It would be appropriate for the issues as to why the SRLs are not be able to access files and file through the portal be known.

Justice for?

There are distinct advantages in respect of timeliness and costs when a party can file electronically as against a SRL who would need to print a document, go to the Registry, have the document witnessed, file the document, serve the other party. An ability to file an application moments before a hearing would disadvantage big time a SRL.

Having observed a barrister being allowed leave to hand up an application as a case is beginning the potential injustices are apparent. A thorough consideration of these pro-legal industry advantages could be placed before the Attorney General and allow him to understand the disparity in justice he is overviewing. I can foresee how I could use such an advantage, even if the AG can't

When a party is self represented it could only be fair that both parties have equal access to the law courts. That suggests, one not represented by legal companies will have to wait until technology is introduced which allows SRLs to sign off on affidavits, financial statements. At least an indication as to when that might be is warranted.
Attorney General said

The Commonwealth Courts Portal is an initiative of the Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. It provides web-based services for clients to access information about cases before the courts. Individuals and lawyers can keep track of their cases, including documents filed and upcoming court events, as well as outcomes of court events and any orders made.
The Commonwealth Courts Portal is an initiative of the Family Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia. It provides web-based services for the legal industry to access information about cases before the courts. Individuals, unlike laywers  can not keep track of their cases, including documents filed and upcoming court events, as well as outcomes of court events and any orders made.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
Verdad, I was thinking that perhaps SPCA could register, do they have an ABN, if not perhaps another organisation, perhaps both.

As regard the contradiction I think the AG's is speel with regard to the future, the latter (Unlike Lawyers….) is what currently is.
MikeT said
Verdad, I was thinking that perhaps SPCA could register, do they have an ABN, if not perhaps another organisation, perhaps both.
As I understand the portal it is not for any purposes other than those purposes of filing and accessing documentation and proceedings details in the court. As such the group has no function in that UNLESS they are given recognition and SPECIAL access which would possibly require legislation. I can't imagine why SPCA would be entitled to access court documentation of individual cases. Am I wrong in believing that SPCA is a representation of many seeking a voice in respect to shared parenting?

It is my perspective that as a group to argue for equal rights of ALL before the court is in the interest of natural justice.

At 10:16am I received the following response from the Commonwealth Courts Portal Scheme
Commonwealth Courts Portal Scheme said
Thank you for your email and interest in the Portal.

The Portal is a new service, that is constantly evolving. We are rolling out the capabilities of the Portal in stages. We are aware of the need for Self Represented Litigants to be able to access their files in the same way as the legal profession, and are working to ensure that when we do provide access it is in a secure way that provides adequate respect for individual privacy at the same time as providing information. Self Represented Litigants and indeed any Client of the Court will soon be able to use the Portal to access their file information when there is capability to do so.

At that time, you will be able to see as much information about your case as a Lawyer can see of their files.

We ask for your patience and understanding in this. In the meantime may I direct you to use File Search on the Family Court website if your matter pertains to Family Law, or eSearch on the Federal Court website if your matter pertains to Federal Law.
The fact remains that until Self Representing Litigants are equally entitled, then equability before the law is in question.

How might the legal industry respond if this service was solely for SRLs?

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
verdad said
The fact remains that until Self Representing Litigants are equally entitled, then equaility before the law is in question.

How might the legal industry respond if this service was solely for SRLs?
Perhaps you could write back thanking them for the response etc, and pointing out that the inequality is not hypothetical - they have acknowledged that it exists - and as you say leaves equality before the law open to question.

You might then politely point out that since it does take time to get the details right, perhaps the interests of equality are best served by waiting (read: retracting the uneven access) until it is available to all.

Especially since security is still an issue - if the system is not yet secure enough for SRL, are we sure it is secure enough for lawyers?



Fair comments

BriarRose said
Perhaps you could write back thanking them for the response etc, and pointing out that the inequality is not hypothetical - they have acknowledged that it exists - and as you say leaves equality before the law open to question.

You might then politely point out that since it does take time to get the details right, perhaps the interests of equality are best served by waiting (read: retracting the uneven access) until it is available to all.

Especially since security is still an issue - if the system is not yet secure enough for SRL, are we sure it is secure enough for lawyers?
A thankful response has been sent seeking further details about the portal and it's functionality. Should a SRL find themselves in court in a disadvantageous circumstance it could be that that information might be of more value than engaging court staff in a debate in which they are not allowed to participate. The political lobbying channels that emanate through this portal have hopefully been activated and are soon to express our concerns.

I agree that it has been premature and unjust to launch a service for those whom hold an advantage already. The sense about security is a valid contention.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha

How can it be just when one party has priviledges denied to another party?

How can it be just when one party has priviledges denied to another party?
Federal Court Report 2006-2007 said
During 2006-07, the Court maintained its commitment to achieving performance goals for the Court's core work while at the same time developing and implementing a number of key strategic and operational projects.

On-line access - the Commonwealth Courts Portal

The Court's eCourt Strategy is now entering its second stage of implementation involving the development and integration of electronic services to support the Court's aim to provide judges, staff and legal practitioners with improved access to court services via the Internet. During the year the Federal Court, Family Court of Australia, and Federal Magistrates Court of Australia have collaborated to jointly develop a Commonwealth Courts Portal through which all their respective eCourt services will be delivered, including providing access to MyFiles (the Portal) across the three Courts. The services and information to be aggregated and delivered through MyFiles includes:

- eLodgment of documents;

- eSearching of court files;

- eCourtroom - interactive collaborative forums for interlocutory proceedings;

- On-line Orders - parties can submit drafts and the judge can post final orders;

- Judgments - integrated links to judgments from within the registry file;

- Transcript - integrated links to transcript from within the registry file; and

- eTrials (integration of the official court record with large scale collections of electronic evidence).

One of the most interesting aspects of the project is the ability for external users to engage with the court systems directly to submit information and documentation and search for information themselves without assistance from court staff.

During the year the Court along with the other jurisdictions has undertaken considerable work on the Portal project. The Chief Justice spoke in detail about the technology at the Seventh Worldwide Common Law Judiciary Conference in London in May 2007 and generated a great deal of interest in the concept. At a local level, presentations with the profession have raised awareness and helped to build support for the project. Work will continue and it is planned that the service will be launched in 2007-08.
Having access to the mentioned services can be a distinct advantage. Especially when a legal practice can have multiple case history and details available to them. It takes little imagination to comprehend how this advantage can become a disadvantage to those without such access.

Herald Sun article

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23878093-2862,00.html

The omission of the facts in a Herald Sun article that access to the service for the legal industry ONLY illustrates how the rights of many Self Representing Litigants (SRL) will be further disadvantaged by a limited and premature access of this service will remain unknown to many before the court.

It shall be interesting to observe how many SRLs will have grounds for taking judgements to Appellate courts as a consequence of this inequality in respect of justice for all, regardless of representation.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
As a Self Represented Litigant i appeared before the court as a lawyer/barrister, how can justice be served when such access is only granted to lawyers, denying SRL's such as my self access to such facilities is in hinderance of justice.

monaro said
As a Self Represented Litigant i appeared before the court as a lawyer/barrister, how can justice be served when such access is only granted to lawyers, denying SRL's such as my self access to such facilities is in hindrance of justice.
Remember that at present you still have access to the 'file search' system.

I suspect that 'someone' actually did not think too far ahead when they were setting this up. It appears to be a single log in to get access to multiple cases. The single case event was probably not considered.

It is other little issues we also need to focus on - try getting into the Library at Goulburn Street or finding where you can use a computer in the building.

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (look for the Avatars) Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Agog said
It is other little issues we also need to focus on - try getting into the Library at Goulburn Street or finding where you can use a computer in the building.
I shall be willing to check out access to the library at Sydney Registry. If I recall it correct oneringrules may have suggested some paperwork might help. Could be worthwhile to try without it first up. With the substantial library at Sydney University Law School there has been no need to pass the hallowed portals.

Must admit to being curious. Would be interesting to compare it with the Syd Uni facility.

What is done for you, let it be done, what you must do, be sure you do it, as the wise person does today that what the fool will do in three days - Buddha
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