Rule of Law
Balancing efficiency and barriers: Navigating the transformative potential of digital justice

Irina Burgaza explores the transformative landscape of digital justice in Mexico
© Michał Chodyra via Getty Images

Information and communication technologies have become more used in the field of justice in the last years. Both the technological advancements and the pandemic have facilitated worldwide justice reforms that aim to make legal processes more efficient, accessible, and transparent, ultimately improving the delivery of justice in a digital age.

Last year the Transparency in Justice Program of México Evalúa focused on digital justice through a series of events that discussed the recent implementation of e-justice tools in matters such as the Code of Civil and Family Procedures, the labor law system, human rights, and the general use of artificial intelligence in the judicial system.

The focus on digital justice in Mexico, as highlighted by the initiatives of the Transparency in Justice Program, is highly relevant in the context of democratizing access to legal services, enhancing efficiency and fairness, and reducing costs. However, the discussions emphasized that while digital justice holds promise for improving the system and deliver justice, it’s important to recognize that its success depends on how well it is implemented. And even more so in a diverse landscape as Mexico, if not implemented right, it can create more barriers for people who seek to access the justice system.

The experts invited prompted that the newly reformed National Code of Civil and Family Procedures aspires to an ideal, but achieving standardized practices across all judicial powers in all states will be challenging. Therefore, they acknowledged the progress that this Code brings, but stressed the importance of continued regulation and adaptation. Some of the suggestions offered for the next steps in the implementation were the involvement of the federal government in facilitating digital literacy initiatives and stablishing a special fund within the budget to support technological advancements in the judicial system and assure a more homogenous implementation of the Code.

Coordinated Efforts for Efficiency

With regards to the labor law system, it was noted that currently all local and federal conciliation centers use some technological tool. Because the reform mandates the use of digital tools in labor-related procedures, a series of coordinated efforts have been undertaken to develop a national labor conciliation system, facilitating the management of pre-trial conciliation through a centralized platform. The benefits are manifold, including increased transparency, reduced corruption risks, and budget savings.

The discussion on the use of digital justice in the human rights field in Mexico highlighted that there is a significant shift in the perceptions of digital justice since the pandemic. Moreover, it addressed a common concern when it comes to technological advancements: the status of humans being replaced by these tools. The answer was very clear: while you can access the system on your own, complexities arise on the way and therefore legal representation is still necessary; the justice system incorporating digital tools does not mean that you can access your rights without a lawyer.

The last event of the series reunited members of the judiciary, lawyers and academia with Juan Corvalán, a distinguished legal scholar with expertise in artificial intelligence, bringing invaluable insights into the transformative potential of AI in reshaping digital justice. Juan emphasized that the integration of AI within judiciaries is no longer a matter of speculation, but an existing reality. Central to the conversation was the imperative question of how to effectively regulate and structure its use within legal frameworks and the necessary adoption of comprehensive guidelines to ensure their responsible deployment, as currently there is a lack of safety measures surrounding the use of AI in the justice field.

Regardless of the field of law, these conversations brought forth the reality of the digital divide and the limitations faced by some segments of the Mexican population in terms of reliable internet and computers or other connected devices access, and a lack of digital literacy. Addressing these challenges goes beyond the scope of the justice system, but it is vital to ensure that the benefits of e-justice are inclusive and reach all members of society. Stemming for this, we have to accept that not only has the transition process be optional, not obligatory, but also that the system has to offer more than one option to the citizens, as the level of digital access and literacy varies considerably across the country.

Global Perspectives: Navigating Ethical Considerations and Data Privacy

There is a growing acceptance worldwide of the need to embrace digitalization within legal systems, with countries increasingly exploring innovative approaches to leverage technology for the delivery of justice. However, ethical considerations, data privacy concerns, and disparities in technological literacy pose significant challenges that must not only be navigated with care, but also require joint efforts from policymakers, legal practitioners, and civil society in order to ensure that technological advancements are employed ethically and inclusively.

Digital justice has the power to redefine the way we administer justice, empowering individuals, enhancing accountability, and ultimately strengthening the rule of law. Nonetheless, it is essential that its implementation prioritizes inclusivity, addresses disparities, and rigorously safeguards privacy concerns to ensure equitable access and prevent the exacerbation of existing barriers and potential abuses of rights.