On December 8 – 9, 2021, the 37th Plenary meeting of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) of the Council of Europe was held. The Member States demonstrated the unity in the need for further development of the tools in the field of digitization of justice.
In particular, during December meeting the 2022 – 2025 CEPEJ Action Plan: “Digitalisation for a better justice,” designed to reconcile the effective use of new technologies with respect of fundamental human rights, was adopted. The document defines the main focus of the CEPEJ work – to always put the user at the center of the problem, even in the digital environment, providing such a person with efficient and high-quality public services in the area of justice. CEPEJ task for the next four years to ensure that justice in its work remains transparent, human, collaborative, people-centered, and accessible for users in the face of the rapid development of new technologies.
CEPEJ Members have approved a Revised roadmap to ensure proper implementation of the European ethical Charter on the use of artificial intelligence in judicial systems and their environment with a view to establishing a future certification mechanism for artificial intelligence tools and services in the legal and judicial spheres. The Charter identifies five key principles for the use of these technologies: (1) respect for fundamental rights, (2) non-discrimination, (3) data quality and security, (4) transparency, impartiality and fairness, (5) user control. It is important to follow these principles when developing applications using artificial intelligence to protect human rights. At the same time, the Roadmap envisages the introduction of a system of measures within the framework of the CEPEJ, including the development of a tool to assess the compliance of such applications with the Charter, as well as a mechanism for monitoring new applications in the judiciary, disseminating the best practices on the use of innovative technologies among the other Council of Europe Member States.
An important contribution of CEPEJ in the field of e-Justice was the adoption of the Guidelines for the submission of documents to the court in electronic form and the digitization of courts. The document sets out a number of key steps that states should follow when developing and implementing an electronic filing system and digitizing the work of courts, thus creating a digital channel for the interaction and exchange of data and electronic documents between courts and court users (in particular, litigants, lawyers, witnesses, experts and other actors involved in the litigation). It consists of three parts: the first one covers governance and legal aspects of building a complete ecosystem of electronic court services; the second one concerns the socio-cultural and organizational aspects of supporting the electronic submission of documents from the user’s point of view; the third part focuses on technical issues that need to be analyzed before implementing the system. The appendix to the Guidelines contains a checklist of questions that system developers are encouraged to answer before putting it into practice.
The participants also approved the revised SATURN Guidelines for judicial time management (4th edition), in particular by supplementing them with a guidelines on court staff, lawyers, judicial experts and bailiffs, and the 2022 – 2023 Activity Programme of the CEPEJ.
The event ended with a solemn ceremony of awarding the Crystal Scales of Justice Prize. Kyiv District Court of Odessa with the project “Implementation, development and strengthening of the Public Justice Centre of Odessa Region” received a special mention in the competition. In general, this year's finalists were projects from three countries – Ukraine, France and Denmark.
The European Commission on the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) was established on 18 September 2002 in accordance with Resolution (2002) 12 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The CEPEJ is made up of 47 Member States of the Council of Europe. The purpose of CEPEJ work is to increase the efficiency of justice bodies in the context of implementing Council of Europe standards and recommendations. It is the initiator of numerous studies in this area, in particular, of a comparative nature. It prepares draft recommendations aimed at identifying opportunities and promoting the use of a variety of tools to combine the two key principles of justice: equity and efficiency.