Transparency in the Justice System- an obligation and an opportunity

Our Court launched a twitter account, seeking to rebuild trust. In Argentina, the justice system is the institution with the lowest public trust. Through this account we publish every judgement, hearings, the staff resumes and the Judge's personal leaves. This is not the norm in our country and constitutes a pioneering innovation that demands deep cultural change from public servants and our users too. We improved engagement with the public and inspire other teams to deliver a more efficient service.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

In Argentina, the justice system is the institution with the lowest public trust, and Judges are often perceived by the public as non-transparent, inefficient and distant. The No. 10 Criminal Court of the City of Buenos Aires, Judge Pablo Cruz Casas and his team set out  to change this.

We took a step forward by implementing a judicial open data initiative and the use of Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) as a way to improve our Court’s engagement with the community.

We launched an open twitter account, convinced that free access to public information constitutes a fundamental right in a democratic society.

Through this account we publish every judgment and ruling and we interact directly with users. We face the challenge of ensuring that we publish as much as possible while safeguarding personal data  in all judicial documents.

Actually, we are manually removing any sensitive data that can help identify the people involved in each case. Although this is an incredibly burdensome task, it allows to ensure maximum access while also preserving privacy.

We share the documents in an open format. We seek to meet the requirements and criteria issued by organizations that work with open data.

That is why we provide this information in an organized  manner, creating an  open data repository where users are able to find different types of data sets, containing all the judgments organized by type of felony, type of punishment, a brief description and a link to the complete decision. Moreover, data sets cover all the hearings that were held, as well as the sort and duration of each hearing.

In addition to improving transparency, this system has enabled us to measure our performance in various ways. For instance, we can promptly view and classify the exact amount of cases we have for each type of felony or misdemeanour, how much time it takes the Court to resolve  petitions, how much time the Judge devotes to hearings and also generate dashboards with indicators of every decision made.

We publish all this information so it can be analysed and scrutinized by the public. In order to be as clear and accessible as possible, we display charts created with open source software like Tableau.

This entire process is demanding very deep cultural change both from our team of public servants and our users too. In the judiciary there are many long-standing, ingrained practices and traditions that are difficult to confront.

The impact and results of delivering these policies can be measured not only by interactions with our twitter account and public google drive, but also with the encouragement and interest we have received from different public servants and citizens across the world.

With this open justice initiative, we have improved our work environment and achieved better job satisfaction. Critically, we have inspired other teams to deliver a more efficient public service.

In addition to the information related to judgments and rulings, we decided to broaden our spectrum of openness. We regularly announce the Tribunal agenda, so any citizen can witness the hearings being held.

Furthermore, we decided to publish the resume of each member of our team. Moreover, although it is not the norm in our justice system, we publish the Judge’s personal leaves and interim appointments in other Courts.

Among other innovations and inspired by plain language initiatives, we are working to make our decisions as comprehensible and clear as possible to every citizen. We are replacing difficult technical words and legalese for simpler, everyday terms.

We are determined to provide a service based on trust by making ourselves more accessible to the community. We hope that, in the near future, these innovations will be common in any court of law.

This project was enabled by the City of Buenos Aires Magistrates Council -the institution which administers the Judiciary- and the support of Mariano Heller, as Head of the Planning Secretary.

Recently, within this program, was launched a Justice and Innovation Lab (#JusLab) which forms an OGP commitment.

Innovation Description

Innovation Development

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Year: 2016
Level of government: Local government

Status:

  • Identifying or Discovering Problems or Opportunities - learning where and how an innovative response is needed
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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