October 2020 – stories that you might have missed

1 October

BC’s Shannon Salter commends ABA’s paper on ODR in the US, noting the rise in court-annexed projects – like her own Civil Resolution Tribunal – where ‘almost 2/3 of new projects were added in 2018-2019’.

The Public Law Project warns ‘that millions of EU citizens with settled status may face discrimination and other problems when looking for jobs and somewhere to live from June 2021 as they will have no physical or paper-based proof of their right to work and live in the UK.’

3 October

Twitter cleans up its act and says that  in relation to threats or wishes of death, serious bodily harm or fatal diseases against anyone: ‘We hear the voices who feel that we’re enforcing some policies inconsistently. We agree we must do better, and we are working together inside to do so.’ 

5 October

Law Society Gazette reports that ‘Outdated technology known to be vulnerable to cyber-attacks is still being relied upon in the criminal court estate    more than £14m has been spent on upgrading Wi-Fi and video equipment across the criminal court estate since 2016 under the HM Courts & Tribunals Service reform programme. Yet despite this investment, Windows XP, Microsoft’s obsolete operating system, which is not being updated with security patches, is still in use in the criminal court estate.’

And the significance of this lapse? ‘In 2017, operators of Windows XP systems fell victim to the WannaCry virus, a worldwide cyber-attack. This ransomware attack, later blamed on North Korean hackers, caused users to be locked out of their computers, with error messages asking for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin in order to regain access. At the time, the NHS was heavily criticised for operating the then 16-year-old Windows XP system.’

The World Justice Project combines with other organisations to collect more data on access to justice and the impact of the pandemic: ‘Back in March 2020, as COVID-19 crept around the world, the United Nations Statistical Commission held its annual meeting in New York. In an effort to be able to measure progress on the promise of [goals] to strengthen equal access to justice for all, the Commission discussed strategies to improve civil justice data. It made important progress when it established a new global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator (16.3.3) to track progress towards access to civil justice. It also endorsed the Praia City Group Handbook on Governance Statistics which includes guidance for strengthening access to justice data.’

‘Nvidia has unveiled AI face-alignment that means you’re always looking at the camera during video calls;’ announces Verge reporter James Vincent. ‘Its new Maxine platform uses GANs to reconstruct the unseen parts of your head — just like a deepfake.’

6 October

BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal publishes latest participant satisfaction results – noting with its own satisfaction that they had risen

‘“Complete shambles” as Conservative conference hit by tech glitches’, reports The Times. ‘Business leaders awaiting a virtual Q&A with the prime minister and the chancellor were left staring at a buffering screen for almost an hour as technical glitches dogged the Conservatives’ “virtual conference”’.

7 October

Chase Hertel of LegalZoom notes that Illinois Legal Aid Online help on employment matters had rocketed from 1500 a month to 31,000 during the Covid 19 pandemic.

8 October

BC’s People”s Law School holds free webinar on making a will as an example of digital outreach.

9 October

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service announces that it ‘has published its detailed response to Dr Natalie Byrom’s 2019 report on use of data and academic engagement, and set out the progress that has been made against the report’s recommendations over the past 12 months.’ It makes all the right noises: ‘The Reform programme will enable HMCTS to become an increasingly data-driven organisation … Data is a strategic asset which plays an increasingly important part in the delivery of our roles: supporting the rule of law and access to justice, improving performance and efficiency, driving fairness and promoting transparency. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this in our need for data to support delivery, to monitor and evaluate our response to date and to inform plans for the future.’

15 October

‘The ABA’s Young Lawyers Division and the Access to Justice Tech Fellows’ announce that they ‘are hosting the Legal Tech Fictional Writing Competition for law students … The goal is to get law students to think critically about how technology will impact the future practice of law, and access to justice in a fun engaging way. The resulting stories will prompt conversations in the legal field about the upcoming changes in a new and creative way  Think you can write a compelling short story in 1,500 words or less? Enter the Legal Tech Fictional Writing Competition for your chance to win $1,000 in cash, and get published in the American Bar Association magazine. The deadline to submit your entry is December 31st, 2020.’  The word limit is 1500: you have to be a student an ABA accredited law school.

Samantha Cole of Vice reports that Joshua Browder of DoNotPay fame is turning his attention to … prison correspondence. ‘The new prison mailing product, which goes live today, aims to solve the problem of complicated and expensive mail systems for incarcerated people and their families. Letter-sending to prisons is often a maze of requirements and bureaucracy that gets something as simple as a greeting card rejected—some prisons won’t allow mail that contains perfume, marker or crayon drawings, or paint, while others ban greeting cards and postcards with any graphic designs. By automating the process of formatting and sizing letters according to facility’s rules, DoNotPay is working to lower the chance that mail will be rejected for these sorts of rules, and that the message eventually gets to their loved ones inside.’

Legaler Aid is launching a crowd funding platform in the US and Australia to fund legal aid cases and announces that it ‘works with legal service organizations and lawyers from across the world to support cases and causes that are critical for accessing justice’.  Contributions are tax deductible.

19 October

‘Police forces can no longer afford to support HM Courts & Tribunals Service during the pandemic by running virtual remand hearings from their custody suites, meaning that defendants will be required to appear in court in person,’ revealed the Law Society Gazette. ‘The National Police Chiefs’ Council confirmed that forces will stop using virtual remand hearings altogether from December.’ Presumably, a settlement will be negotiated.

Legal Services Corporation announces its latest list of technology grants to a total of nearly $4m. ‘Among the funded initiatives are several projects that will improve organizations’ online self-help resources. Other projects will bolster existing case management and online intake systems to allow legal services providers to more effectively serve clients. Several organizations will use TIG funding to create more intuitive, mobile-first websites.’

19 October

An unexpected side effect for judges of working from home can be unsettling detail. Legal Futures reported a speech by Mr Justice Francis at the Resolution. ‘“I’m dealing with the rape and murder of children and I don’t find it very nice having it in my front room or in my bedroom or wherever it may be … it was “a real wellbeing thing we need to be thinking about”’. 

Commonwealth Chief Justices ‘share their experience of responding to COVID-19 and revolutionary use of technology’ in online discussion. ‘A productive exchange of views took place, demonstrating the value of Common Law countries sharing insights into dealing with shared challenges … Th[e] ‘rapid enhancement of the use of technology’ is the theme of online discussions with international partners, including other Commonwealth countries. Lead Judge for International Relations Lord Justice Flaux and Lord Justice Dingemans are directing a range of online discussions with Commonwealth partners, taking stock eight months into the pandemic, and exploring the potential of technology to transform justice systems in the future.’

21 October

‘Snapchat hits nearly 250m daily users,’ reports the BBC.’Snap’s internal figures suggest it is reaching more than 90% of the “Generation Z” population in the US, aged 13 to 24, and more than 60% of 13-34-year olds in the UK, France, Canada and Australia.’

UK-based rightsnet opens a2j.tech which seeks to list leading tech projects in the access to justice field. 

22 October

Council of Europe publishes 2020 report assessing judicial systems in Europe.

25 October

HiiL (the Hague Institute for Innovation in Law) launches a ‘justice dashboard’ based on interviews with 91,117 people in 16 countries. It focuses on employment justice, family justice, neighbour justice, land justice and crime.

28 October

Guardian reports that ‘Nearly half of councils in Great Britain use algorithms to help make claims decisions.’

29 October

As another example of digital outreach, South West London Law Centres advertises free online webinars on dealing with debt and managing finances.

30 October

The Ada Lovelace Institute publishes The Data will see you now. ‘The latest smartwatches offer step-counts and electrocardiograms, online search data can be used to infer dietary and physiological conditions, and the way a person interacts with their smartphone or behaves on social media can be proxies for their mental health status. This is the ‘datafication’ of health, and it has profound consequences for who can access data about health, how we practically and legally define ‘health data’, and on our relationship with our own wellbeing and the healthcare system. Health information can now be inferred from non-health data, and data about health can be used for purposes beyond healthcare.’

Guardian reports that ‘Calls to online child sexual abuse watchdog up 45% in September’.

 

The picture is by Tetyana Yablonska, a Ukranian painter who died in 2005. It was circulated on twitter by a fan account in her name.

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