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Chief justice: Digitization of Estonian courts nothing to show off abroad

Chief Justice Priit Pikamäe.
Chief Justice Priit Pikamäe. Source: (Riigikogu)

Chief Justice Priit Pikamäe said in his speech to the Court en banc on Friday that the digitization of the Estonian court system hasn't produced anything that could gain a lot of international recognition.

Speaking to the assembled judges, Pikamäe said that the digitization meant nothing more than the replacement of paper documents with documents reviewed on a computer screen even though the logic of court procedure is implicitly based on working with paper documents.

According to the chief justice, to really integrate the judiciary with digital solutions in an innovative way, a paradigm shift is needed. "To go on from here, similar change in thinking models is needed as it happened with the digital signature. Obviously these days nobody would expect to have to scan a signature on a piece of paper to digitally sign something," Pikamäe said.

Hence the digitization of the courts' work can't consist only of scanning documents and moving them to virtual systems. What is needed are platforms that would make it possible to go through millions of pages quickly to find certain terms, for example regarding a bankruptcy or tax fraud procedure, the chief justice said. This has the potential to save time and money to a significant extent, he added.

"In much the same way the burden of the courts could be lessened by offering those turning to the courts for help a computer program that would assess the chance to get legal help from the state in individual cases," Pikamäe said.

Though the chief justice does see a lot of potential in technological innovation, he made it clear that court decisions can't be left to applications: "I'm convinced that a sense of justice is so deeply human that transferring it to a lifeless algorithm simply isn't possible."

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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