Open Government Experience at Criminal Court N° 13, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
As a criminal court judge I felt the need to implement concrete actions to establish a new way of adjudicating in my country (Argentina) by relying on Open Government’s principles. Among some of the implemented policies, we publish all of the court's decisions, the court hearings' agenda, statistics and reports on the administration of the court and the biographical information of the court's employees. We do so by using our Twitter (@jpcyf13) and YouTube accounts.
As justice operators in Argentina, we notice there is a lack of confidence and legitimacy within the citizenry. There are lots of factors that cause this general feeling, but the more relevant aspects are related to an absence of transparency, citizen participation and accountability.
In order to solve this problem, in the Criminal Court N° 13 we decided to implement different strategies:
1) We keep an open source of data that can be accessed by anyone that is interested in doing so.
2) We try to provide an easier understanding of judicial decisions to the citizens by using a plain language in every decision we make.
3) We publish all of the court's decisions, the court hearings' agenda, statistics and reports on the administration of the court.
Open Data and Accountability
In this area we introduced lots of changes in our every-day work. First of all, we modernized our records by digitalizing and publishing them online. With this innovations we were able to reduce the amount of time required for some administrative duties. Also, we have decided to anonymize all the data in order to ensure people´s privacy.
In order to share all of our database with the public we created a Twitter account were we published almost everything is done in the Court, from the CV´s of those we work there to complex judicial decisions. In this order, we try to keep a fluid communication in social media to be closer to those who are interested in what we do every day.
We know that having a record of decisions and sharing it is not enough. We have a firm conviction that everyone that takes interest in what we decide has the right to understand it. For doing so, we took several classes of grammar and plain language and changed the way we interact with the public. Also we created a YouTube channel and uploaded videos to explain how the Judiciary works.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Argentine citizens distrust the judicial system. In this context, as a criminal court judge I felt the need to implement concrete actions to establish a new way of adjudicating by relying on Open Government’s principles. My way of adjudicating cases is based on three pillars: open data, accountability and plain language, as a way to simplify the access to justice. Among some of the implemented policies, we publish all of the court's decisions, the court hearings' agenda, statistics and reports on the administration of the court and the biographical information of the court's employees. We do so by resorting to our Twitter (@jpcyf13) and YouTube accounts (we are the first court in the country with a YouTube account), which to directly communicate with the citizens.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Our project is a result of a collaborative effort of those who integrates the Court. Open databases, Twitter and YouTube accounts are managed by us. However, our innovations have aroused the interest of other sectors, such as the Council of the Judiciary of Buenos Aires and the National Ministry of Justice. These institutions collaborate with us regarding, for example, the collection and the analysis of statistics. We also work with citizens, collecting their opinion through anonymous polls.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
- Supreme Court of Justice
- Other Courts
- National Administration
- Local Administration
- Civil society, in particular Non-governmental organizations.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
We managed to highlight the weaknesses and strengths of the work of the court. This practice became a valuable source to rethink daily practices in order to optimize the service we provide. For example: we change the way of citing citizens (via WhatsApp), the way to conduct audiences (videoconferencing) and implement the use of new technologies to communicate with the people (Twitter and YouTube). The change of perspective in the understanding of our work and its impact forces us to continue deepening the path we have taken.
Challenges and Failures
One important challenge has been the resistance to the new way of adjucating cases by several traditional system, which were used not to communicate with citizens. To address this issue, we set up several face-to-face deliberative spaces (i.e. universities). The aim with any participation tool should be to promote open justice, transparency and accountability. Another problem is the lack human resources and qualification, especially in technology issues.
Conditions for Success
1) Commitment of the members of the court
2) Team work
3) Training in communication issues and new technologies
4) Teamwork strategies
5) Training on the collection and analysis of statistics
As part of the commitment to OGP, we have shared our work with other courts and with the Judiciary Council of Buenos Aires.
We learned that by pulling together the effort of the whole team, it is possible to practice open justice. We also learned that it is necessary to improve these practices and to expand them with the purpose of strengthening the judicial system as a fundamental institution of democracy.