Dr. Weaver, a Posey County, Indiana physician, and Judge Parrett, the Posey Circuit Court Judge when our courthouse was built in 1876, were friends. If Dr. Weaver could step into an operating room of a hospital today he would be unable to function. If Judge Parrett walked into the same courtroom he presided over 141 years ago, he would not miss a beat. Medicine has progressed. Law remains much as it has been for centuries. However, starting in April 2017 citizens in Posey County who need legal services will see a change much like Dr. Weaver’s new operating room.
No longer will one need to be chained to a courthouse to file legal documents or check on the status of their case. E-Filing and digital pleadings will soon take the place of musty old file folders. The legal profession has often seen changes in the law as a dangerous meddling with carefully and slowly developed procedures that are based on years of experience, good and bad. Lady Justice has always worn the same blindfold and toga for good reason. She carefully guards the courthouse portals.
This attitude has sometimes led to arcane mysteries that stultify the system and result in slow or incomplete legal outcomes or even unjust ones. Perhaps modern technology will help staunch the flow of inordinate amounts of legal documents, much of which are irrelevant to just resolutions, and will reduce the time between when cases are commenced and resolved.
Instead of citizens getting their knowledge of their legal system at the coffee shop or from television, much as patients used to turn to home remedies and wives tales, now one will be able to go right to the actual source.
Of course, changes in trappings and procedures do not guarantee justice. We might be able to increase access to the legal system while we reduce costs and delays. But justice must still come from people, not just the staffs of the Clerk and the Court, or the attorneys and judges, but also from the lay people who come to or are brought to the Bar.
Regardless of legal procedures and technologies, a desire in the participants to fairly resolve controversies always has been and always will be the best safeguard of justice. Truthful testimony and pre-trial exchanges of accurate information mean far more than scanning in pleadings or printing out court decrees over the Internet.
On the other hand, if one cannot access justice easily and economically, a proper spirit of honest compromise is of little help. Soon Posey County’s legal system will address the access portion. Citizens and those who operate the system will still need to address the rest.