On-line Civil Trial (PCT)

Published on: 06/06/2007 Document
The “processo civile telematico” (which in English can be translated into “On-line Civil Trial”) is an infrastructure developed by the Italian Ministry of Justice to enable on-line services. It realizes a two-way data and document interchange and application interoperability between all the external users, the Courts and Public Administrations involved in civil cases, through a high-security PKI architecture and adoption of state-of-the-art technical standards. Over 100.000 italian lawyers are now able to access civil proceedings of over 120 Courts, while in 7 Courts the injunctions are completely managed electronically.

Policy Context

The contextual conditions are basically legal and technical. On a legal basis, so far no intervention has been made on primary legislation; a secondary regulation framework (in 2001 and 2004) has defined the operational and technical rules and requirements; the Parliament has recently started working on some simplifying rules at a primary level. The basic architectural choice has been to externalize authentication of users: this operation has to be done by the Access Point, held by the Bars, which is also in charge of the certification of the role of the user. On a technical basis, all security issues have been considered: - to preserve privacy, all transmissions are done on encrypted channels, and documents are themselves encrypted in a S-MIME envelope - strong authentication (based on smart cards, released by official Certification Authorities) is required both for external and internal users - transmissions are certain, since a certified e-mail system is used - digital signature is required for legal electronic documents, according to national rules (which completely adopt the 1999/93/CE european directive) - antivirus check is activated at all steps All technology state-of-the-art standards have been implemented, both on protocols and communication methods (http/SOAP, webservices,...) and on content (XML for metadata and PDF for document formatting). The system is then designed to enable application-to-application interoperability: many efforts have been already made to test lawyers' softwares and let them syncronize their data with the information stored in the Courts' databases, via web services. On a social base, very relevant impact has been estimated in social insurance proceedings, considering the high case numbers especially in southern Italy; bankruptcy and enforcements proceedings on criminal phenomenons: this last part has recently been financed by the Italian Banks Association. See all details in the paper attached to this submission.

Description of target users and groups

Users involved are: lawyers (about 150.000) and expert witnesses (about 200.000) as external users; office clerks (about 10.000) and judges (about 3.000) as internal users; office clerks in other Public Administrations.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The strategic management of the project is in charge to a Management Board, where all participants (Ministry of Justice, Consultants and Contractors) are represented at a level or responsibility (in their own organisations) that ensures a strict co-ordination with the respective objectives. The day-by-day co-ordination of the project is the responsibility of the Project Manager of the Ministry of Justice, assisted by some coordinators, technicians, administrative and organizational experts. The project is divided into Work Packages, related to the Design and Development of the system, on one side, and to the services (Training, Deployment, Help Desk), on the other side. The overall responsibility of the management of each Work Package is assigned to a Work Package Leader, having the most relevant tasks and responsibilities in the Work Package itself. Each Work Package is further divided into Tasks, each representing a self consistent, identifiable and measurable piece of work assigned. The structured definition of the tasks and the assignment of the responsibility keep under control the project, using a periodical check of the progress of the work, with a risk management and cost analysis as support of the overall management process. Software and infrastructure partners: www.datamat.it, www.eds.com, www.postecom.it. Organizational experts: www.cogruppo.it. Multi-channel issues: The system has been designed to allow the use of a multi-channel approach in the delivery phase. The choice of an open and standard architecture, both for transmission protocols and for contents, together with the approach to externalize front-ends (access points), enables public companies to build whatever kind of applications and to deliver them in whatever mode (e.g. application service providing); besides, all external software (typically the one used by the professionals) can directly interoperate with the PCT infrastructure via web services, exchanging XML messages and PDFs documents. As to the communication mean, external users and access points are on the Internet: an encrypted channel (SSL3) il established after strong (smart card) authentication of the users, in order to ensure high security in all transmissions. Also internal users (principally judges) can work outside their offices, using internet (e.g. at home): the authentication is guaranteed by the Access Point specifically created by the Ministry of Justice, thus ensuring the same security issues stated above. As to the delivery of legal acts, the system is also able to accept an off-line delivery, structured or not (in according to the PCT technical rules). In this context, the Court Office subsystem can also accept and process legal acts, printed on paper with a bar code system to trace the main data structured, or legal acts, stored on a CD/DVD Rom, in a standard Mime envelope.

Main results, benefits and impacts

The system is active for web access to all civil proceedings regarding over 100 Courts (first and second grade), including big towns like Rome, Milan, Naples and Turin; the potential number of lawyers is over 100.000 (about 60% of all the lawyers' population in Italy). In addition, State attorneys can access the system. Lawyers can also retrieve documents regarding decisions produced by some Courts (local jurisprudence). With this service, the lawyers save time, human resources and money to travel to the Court and wait at the front-office (It’s been calculated that the time wasted by a single lawyer in a queue for asking information is about 20-30 minutes). Time and human resources are also saved for office clerks in giving information to lawyers and make simple copies of documents. The system is also active (since December 2006) for the injunction procedure in 7 Courts, including Milan. Over 2.000 injunctions have been managed electronically; this means that documents written both by the lawyers and the judges are all electronic files (digitally signed) and the transmission is only made electronically, without any paper delivery. The number is increasing on a geometric progression. With this service, lawyers save 100% of manual operations, since every step can be made electronically; office clerks save 60% of manual operations and especially avoid data-entry and relative risks of mistakes. It’s also been calculated that the average time needed by office clerks to manage the proceedings electronically has been reduced from 15 minutes to 0,30 minutes (95% time saving). On a national basis (where less than 400.000 injunctions are requested yearly), money saving (calculated only considering office clerks’ salary) is less than 2.000.000 Euros. Considering all proceedings, the estimate is about 10.000.000 Euros saved yearly just considering office clerks’ salary. The PCT system has also been a great chance to review organizational processes in the Court: due to this review, in Milan the length of proceedings (for injunctions), which means the time needed for the lawyer to obtain the judge’s decision (which can be an enforcement order) has radically decreased (40% less). Another relevant result regards electronic notifications, which are made to lawyers who own a certified e-mail address on their Access Point (about 500 so far in Milan’s Bar), always without paper delivery. This means saving of time and human resources which has been calculated as the 30% of the total effort needed. In two Italian Courts (Bologna and Genoa) electronic files are also exchanged with the Ministry of Economics (Agency for Tax Incomes) for the registration phase in some injunction proceedings; this electronic interoperability also avoids manual delivery of paper, whose effort is similar to the one needed for notifications. The time length of this phase, which usually takes months in Italy, has now been reduced to zero, not calculating the time needed for the payment phase, done by the lawyer. Indirect impacts can surely be found on citizens (e.g. lawyers can avoid introducing new “exploring” cases) and on business, since a more efficient justice can attract private investors, even in critical areas, particularly considering labour, social insurance and bankruptcy proceedings. In general, all actors are now much more aware in data-entry; office clerks are very careful not to introduce delays in updating activities and in data quality. Another interesting issue is the cultural development, both for lawyers and court’s clerks, referring to a service-oriented approach towards external users, characterized by increased operational transparency and workload monitoring. Please take a look at the English brochure on the official site (www.processotelematico.giustizia.it, section "Il Progetto"); undernieth, there's the link to the film which shows how it really works. Innovation: All the instruments and utilities developed in the PCT System help to feed a “digital culture” of lawyers, office clerks and judges, and in general to modernize justice. In this context, the main novelty is the upsetting of the traditional paper-based proceedings system and the “blooming” of the electronic manipulation and transmission of files and dockets. Civil proceedings in Italy are almost completely based on paper: hearings are still necessary, but judges and lawyers basically work on documents. Therefore, the number of paper documents could be very high for each case. The need to give efficient and effective instruments to judges in order to study all the papers and prepare their decisions, is also a priority issue: now the judges use a new case management software, which allows them to classify proceedings, collect resources (jurisprudence, doctrine, etc.), and organize their duties. Lawyers always need to get a copy of the counterpart’s documents, so very much time is loss, both for lawyers and for office clerks, to retrieve dockets and take photocopies. Besides, all the decisions taken by the judge, even the small procedural ones, have to be notified to the parties: on a paper-based system is consists in a huge loss of time and human resources. Besides, any problem on notifications can cause delays or even cancel proceedings. Talking about electronic-based decisions, so far in Italy all professionals can only get access to Supreme Court’s decisions. The innovation of PCT is then to provide access to local jurisprudence databases, through information retrieval functions (both full-text and conceptual searches); the system also allows judges to make links between sentences, in order to create decision chains. The creation of a local jurisprudence database also enables lawyers to quote local sentences made by the same magistrates judging their own proceedings

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The architecture of PCT has been brought by the Italian delegation to the attention of the Working Party on E-Justice (Council of the European Union), which has the aim to define a cross-border interconnection of national systems. In this context, the architecture designed so far by the Working Party is fully compliant with PCT, meaning that little effort should be done by the Italian system to enable cross-border interoperability among judicial authorities and actors. As a matter of fact, Italy (together with other countries like Austria and Germany) is ready to start developing pilot projects regarding cross-border judicial initiatives (e.g. insolvency registers, criminal registers, order for payment, etc). As said in 2.6, the adoption of an open and standard architecture, both for transmission protocols and for contents, makes the whole infrastructure completely reusable: this makes the system fully compliant to Italian regulations for software reuse, defined for all public administrations, also regarding exchange mechanisms. In this context, in fact, the system will be surely be used by other judicial administrations (e.g. administrative).

Lessons learnt

During these last three years we can identify the following main lessons learned: 1. The choice to externalize the Point of Access has turned to be appropriate, especially referring to help-desk and assistance. 2. Referring to security, the high-level and strict choices made (especially strong client authentication), even though they sometimes imply practical problems, have been appreciated by the lawyers. 3. The importance of the final users involvement and the matching with the strategic mission of the project. After having defined the guidelines of the project, it has been necessary to involve the final users of the system, in each phase of the project avoiding, however, to move away from the main path and goals. 4. The technological and methodological approach in the design and implementation of the system. The choice of a solid and professional technological contractor, with a juridical and technical know-how at the same time, has assured continuity during all the project phase and fulfilment of results. 5. The organizational impact. A great effort has been made to analyse the impact of the introduction of the new system. This has produced a change in the organization of the Court office clerks, beyond the law and rule modifications. Scope: National