Irish courts move towards paperless litigation with landmark use of eCourt app

The Irish courts have moved one step closer to paperless litigation with the use of the bespoke eCourt app in a Supreme Court case today.

Android-powered tablets took the place of “outdated” lever-arch folders and bankers’ boxes today during the appeal case of Lannigan v. Barry.

Using the eCourt system, pleadings and other court documents are scanned and uploaded to Android tablets, where they can be searched electronically and private annotations made.

At the touch of a button, a person presenting in court can bring up a page that he or she is referring to on all parties’ devices.

The technology is aimed at civil and commercial cases where a lot of paperwork is involved.

Practising barrister Kieran Morris, who co-founded eCúirt Teoranta with fellow barrister Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh, spoke to Irish Legal News about the new system mid-way through today’s proceedings.

Explaining the technology, he said: “When the presenter moves his page, the page reference is transmitted to a remote server, and then it transmits the same page reference back to all the receiving devices, who are also registered on the server.

“Consequently, people can present and receive to and from each other in court, and the app also has a lot of additional features, like one can break off and independently view files, and one can annotate and hyperlink across PDFs, and so on and so forth.”

The papers are never uploaded to the Internet or cloud storage, and each device is encrypted for heightened security. eCúirt Teoranta has also developed a solution for courts where there is no Wi-Fi access.

Mr Morris said: “To get across the whole problem of Wi-Fi - where there’s, for example, no Wi-Fi in the Four Courts here in Dublin, and a lot of courts may not have Wi-Fi - we have developed what we call the ‘eCourt Box’, which is a local Wi-Fi access point with an in-built server as well, so it’s a mobile plug-and-play unit.

“That’s what we’re actually using today in the Supreme Court, and we can run up to thirty tablet devices off it.”

While the tech remains in early stages of development, eCúirt Teoranta will provide “a fully managed service in Dublin for the higher courts”.

Mr Morris said: “There is an app that can be used with Android devices, but there are still some issues to be ironed out with people who have different devices and how it may display and how upgrades may interfere with the app. There’s lot of technological bridges to cross, so in the early stages we will be running a fully managed service.

“I would hope to franchise that service out to the north of Ireland and to London and to other cities in the UK.”

Mr Morris added that a preliminary demonstration of the technology had already been shown to Queen’s Counsel in Northern Ireland.

He said: “I believe that people there will be watching the outcome of this pilot that we’re having here in Dublin with a possible view to importing the system.”