Microsoft Japan Co., Ltd. announced the incorporation of Microsoft Teams, a unified communication and collaboration platform to facilitate IT infrastructure development for civil court proceedings, a transition promoted by Japan’s Supreme Court. Microsoft Teams will be integrated into the evidentiary proceedings of civil court cases in nine locations across Japan as of February 2020, and an additional five locations as of May 2020. This marks the global debut of Teams as a tool used in civil court case proceedings.
“Teams, a collaborative app that serves as a hub for Office 365 teamwork, is used daily by more than 20 million users worldwide. Through chat-based discussions, the tool integrates with a variety of applications, facilitating document sharing and simultaneous editing, online conference meetings and calls. Teams also provides individuals with the opportunity to work remotely, therefore revolutionizing organization workstyles and recognizing digital transformation,”, said Tomonari Sato, Managing Director, Public Sector Lead, Microsoft Japan.
“As client data is stored at a Microsoft Data Center in Japan, even domains with strict oversight policies such as those of central and local governments, public agencies, and medical and educational facilities, can safely use Teams with confidence.”.
Participants who live in remote locations have had to participate in evidentiary proceedings of civil court cases through telephone calls or video conferencing. However, drawbacks to such methods include the inability to see participants’ facial expressions during these calls, and those in pending lawsuits must travel to a nearby courthouse for video conferencing services due to limited availability and connectivity. These methods restrict the judge and representatives from viewing and discussing documents and visuals concurrently. Such constraints prevent the use of video conferencing as a tool, and additional challenges such as time, distance and travelling costs also lead to trial postponements when key parties involved are unable to coordinate and sync their schedules.
The Phase One rollout of Teams in evidentiary proceedings will enable trial participants, regardless of where they are, to peruse documents and simultaneously view facial expressions and discuss key points.
■ Benefits of Microsoft Teams in evidentiary proceedings of civil cases
- View facial expressions of participants who are not physically present in court during evidentiary proceedings
- Case participants can join evidentiary proceedings from remote locations such as law offices through the Teams’ Web conferencing feature
- Utilizing Teams document sharing and simultaneous editing features, enabling parties to include additional claims to the “evidentiary proceedings summary” drafted by the court, for a more unified document
- Availability of Teams’ screen-sharing feature for all parties to identify and view relevant documents (such as contracts and documents clarifying the dispute issues) as though they are physically in the same place, enabling document confirmation, discussion and negotiation of key issues.
■ Achievable results using Microsoft Teams in evidentiary proceedings of civil cases
- Web conferencing feature enables the scheduling of evidentiary proceedings without having to buffer for transit time, shortening the duration of trials
- Eliminates the need for trial participants to travel significant distances, creating cost and time savings for the counsel and other relevant parties
- Presents an excellent opportunity to review and improve the current practices of evidentiary proceedings. Among all (approximately 139,000) civil suits litigated in district court across Japan in 2018, over 40% (some 60,000) incorporated evidentiary proceedings.
As the use of IT is enhanced for civil trials and web conferencing is gradually used in evidentiary proceedings, other legal reforms and changes are also being considered for oral arguments, that can bring about more convenience and expedite ligation. This includes determining oral argument dates, the digitization of lawsuit petitions and fee payments, preparatory documents and online scheduling confirmations by related parties. Collectively, such achievements will present unprecedented and advanced digitalized trials globally.
Microsoft Japan aims to support to digital transformation that enhances IT use in Supreme Court civil case proceedings, and seeks to help realize expedited, efficient, and secure trials that are more user-friendly for the country’s citizens.
Visualization of the role of Microsoft Teams in evidentiary proceedings of civil court cases:
For details on the start of new evidentiary proceedings and operations implemented with IT tools such as Web conferencing:
Refer to the above site for details on courts utilizing Teams in evidentiary proceedings.
Note: Evidentiary proceedings are procedures through which civil courts identify disputed issues between parties and the means through which evidence will be examined to elucidate the truth. The proceedings include preparatory oral arguments in open court as well as closed preparatory oral and written (documentation) proceedings. Teleconferencing and videoconferencing are permitted in the latter (closed proceedings).
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