At a time when monks were reverently transcribing the Bible law clerks were laboriously writing down commandments issued by English monarchs. Often both were in Latin. Almost nobody but priests and lawyers could read Latin. The general public was told how it had sinned and why it was going to prison by these ecclesiastical and secular insiders.
As the ability to read became more common, laws were written in English. However, the general public still found the legal system mysterious. But while many may question the validity of my thesis, I postulate the major thrust of America’s legal system in this modern era has been toward making the law less arcane and more accessible for lay people as legal professionals are gradually relegated to the role of cloistered monks.
Today millions of citizens file and handle their own lawsuits. From divorces to property disputes and even murder trials people can and do represent themselves. Frequently the only role left for the legal profession is to try and repair the damage caused by an inarticulate lay resolution. As for judges, they are often relegated to simply signing their names to documents they had no role in crafting. And starting in 2017 in Posey County, Indiana, Electronic Filing will continue the march toward universal access to court records.
Soon, other than for laypersons, all court filings and record keeping will be done electronically. E-Filing is what it will be called. Documents will be scanned and, except for a few confidential categories, will be available via the Internet. One will no longer have to resort to third party reports of cases. Instead of gleaning our gossip and satiating our curiosity at the coffee shop or the tavern we can go right to the source day or night.
Now, after being embroiled in legal matters for almost half a century I might question the sanity of someone who finds Judge Judy and the like of any interest, but others may differ. If so, they will soon be able to emulate the Russian hackers without even needing to hack. I can envision millions of bleary-eyed voyeurs eschewing sleep to delve into the misfortunes of their fellow travelers electronically and a legal system where contact with an actual human being is as dead as Latin.