The European Union (EU) is an extraordinary laboratory of innovation and change, particularly in the justice sector. The diversity of environments within Europe provides contrasting examples of the use of technology to support the administration of justice. This chapter presents some of the findings of ongoing research on e-government in judicial administration, which has been carried on by the Research Institute on Judicial Systems of the National Research Council in Bologna, Italy. More in detail, the chapter considers the Italian case in a comparative perspective. It illustrates the great diversity of ways in which EU members are harnessing information and communication technology (ICT) to support the operation of their legal systems, and it identifies different strategies as well as tools developed. Finally, it detects some critical issues and trends in Italy in comparison with the challenges addressed by other countries.
E-Government Strategies In Justice Systems
In the EU, there is a continuum from situations in which ICT projects are still in the hands of the centralized ministries of justice to the establishment of court services agencies and the consequent devolution to them of the functions related to the development of ICT in the justice systems. For example, in Austria, the projects are handled by the Ministry of Justice with the assistance of the Federal Computing Centre, which gives technical support to the different public administration units as far as ICT projects are concerned. In Belgium, within the General Services of the Ministry of Justice, there is the Centre for Information Processing, which is assisted by experts and users’ groups made up of judges, clerks, and ICT managers. Denmark has recently established a Court Service Agency, similar to the ones in Ireland, England, and Wales, within which there is a department for ICT. A similar situation is present in Norway where the State Court IT Service, which is supervised by but independent from the Ministry of Justice, is in charge of the development and implementation of ICT projects. In Sweden, the Ministry of Justice coordinates ICT matters along with the National Court Administration and the other national agencies for probation, police, prosecution, and prisons. In Finland, a Judicial Administration Department within the Ministry of Justice is in charge of ICT strategy, while technical matters are taken care of by the Data Administration Bureau, a unit of the Ministry. In France, ICT is strictly under the control of the Ministry of Justice which has a commission for data processing, including representatives of all the directorates of the Ministry: clerks and delegates from the legal profession. In Germany, ICT policies are developed by the ministries of justice of the states (Länder) in accordance with the chief judges and prosecutors of the various judicial offices. Local judicial councils also play a vital role in the implementation process (Fabri & Contini, 2001).