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Friday, October 12, 2012

Hunstein says courts bogged down by inadequate technology

According to Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol W. Hunstein, the state's judiciary is hampered by inadequate technology, budgetary constraints, and rising numbers of cases involving meta data evidence.

In a speech delivered last night at SPSU entitled "The intersection of technology, business and the law,"  Hunstein said Alabama has a state-of-the art electronic filing process which allows attorneys to file documents online to the County Clerk's office. "Alabama is a unified court system; Georgia is not," Hunstein said.

Proclaiming that it has become challenging for seasoned judges to keep up with technology, Hunstein said the new face of business requires that computer geeks are on board. She said since E-discovery rules began being interpreted in 2006, courts have had to increasingly deal with technology issues.

New terminology that the court makes judgments on include electronic evidence, spoiliation, hacktivism, and privacy issues linked to social networks. Hunstein said it is estimated that by 2013, 570 billion email messages will be sent per day which could cause nightmares when dealing with evidence.

"It's harder for older judges to decipher technology issues because they do not know much about computer programming....I heard one case but it was referred up to the appellate court," she said.

Hunstein said the economy has had negative impacts on court technology. "In the last two years, we've been hit hard. I just received notice that there is going to be a 3% decrease in our budget request. Furloughs of employees was not an option, so judges took a cut in pay."

"We have constitutional requirements to provide services and should not be under budgetary restrictions." When questioned about the future, she concluded, "We're going to do the very best that we can."

Chief Justice Hunstein was appointed to the state Supreme Court by Gov. Zell Miller in 1992 and is the second woman in history to serve as a permanent member of the court. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Council of Superior Court Judges. A polio survivor and divorce single mother by age 23, Hunstein lost her left leg to cancer and wears a prosthetic.

"Women have come a long way, but we're not there yet," was her response to a question about women in her profession. "There are still those that don't want to recognize our rights. We need more mentees."

After the speech, Hunstein was awarded a crystal statute of the SPSU watch tower.
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.

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