Brazil uses technology to improve access to justice

May 1st, 2017

Brazilian Federal Labour Court Judge, Francisco Barbossa, spoke about how Brazil has used technology to effectively improve access to justice.

By Mapula Sedutla

De Rebus had an opportunity to interview Brazilian Federal Labour Court Judge, Francisco Barbossa, in March. Judge Barbossa spoke about how Brazil has used technology to effectively improve access to justice.

Judge Barbossa said that in 2008, Brazil implemented a full e-litigation system as opposed to mere e-filing in its labour courts. He added that the labour court of the state of Paraíba was one of the first Brazilian judiciaries to adopt and implement electronic lawsuit systems and tools, which has been very successful and, therefore, it has been rolled out across the whole judicial system.

Judge Barbossa noted how South Africa (SA) is much like Brazil in some aspects in terms of the spread of communities in rural areas and the fact that the two countries have similar social divides. He added that other similarities include the fact that the two countries are part of BRICS and that both countries need to continually improve access to justice. He noted that Brazil, much like SA, still has some bandwidth and communication access challenges.

Judge Barbossa said that at the beginning of the implementation of the electronic system, the system was made to be downloaded, which then changed to be a website based system that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. He added that the system has helped reduce the time it takes to conclude a case from seven to eight months to four to five months.

Judge Barbossa said lawyers register on the web based system and receive an electronic device that looks like a USB flash drive for signing in. ‘Lawyers are able to write court documents on the system or submit PDFs. The document is then distributed electronically. The system also sends notifications when the other party sends documents or when the judge on the case sends a directive. Lawyers can see what is happening throughout the process,’ he said.

Speaking about the positive changes the electronic system has brought, Judge Barbossa said the employees of the courts are now able to work out of office. He noted that this also means that lawyers do not have to go to court and can maximise their time better. ‘Court buildings that were originally designed to be ten floors are now only five floors because not many people are using the offices and also there is less file space required,’ he added.

Judge Barbossa said the implementation stage of the electronic system was difficult as there was resistance and an unwillingness to change. ‘This was resolved by having a room where lawyers could come in and their papers were converted to pdf, this started to break the resistance. On occasion we would experience low internet speed and break down but, there are more problems with paper based systems,’ he added.

Judge Barbossa noted that the system ensures that there is no loss of documents, mitigates against fraud and is not expensive to maintain.

Mapula Sedutla NDip Journ (DUT) BTech (Journ) (TUT) is the editor of De Rebus.

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (May) DR 12.