Frequently asked questions
It is quickly becoming standard to hold hearings remotely. We have been asked several questions around remote hearings and how they work. Here is a compiled list of the most frequent questions and answers.
The role of Thomson Reuters Case Center in a virtual hearing is to show evidence documents and videos to all participants. It is used in addition to video conferencing platforms such as Skype for Business, Zoom, Teams and CVP from HMCTS.
Case Center: See and navigate the evidence in the case.
Video Conferencing: See and hear the people in the virtual court room and record the hearing.
When you send the Judge or a party a link to a Case Center case, it replaces handing over a set of paper case files, sending paginated PDFs by email attachment or uploading PDFs to an e-Filing portal. When the link is sent, the Judge and parties can see the evidence on their screen using an internet browser. This is the preferred method for many jurisdictions.
We are hearing reports that this approach is proving difficult and unsustainable. Here are some examples:
- My PDFs are too large to send by email or upload to an e-Filing system, but splitting PDF’s feels insecure and is time consuming
- When I reduce the size of the PDF by filleting evidence the hearing is delayed as documents need to be added mid-hearing, requiring new PDFs to be sent or the original to be updated.
- I have too many PDFs and it becomes unclear which PDFs are full replacements for the case file or late arriving additions.
- It takes me too long time to create the index, hyperlink it to the documents and apply pagination, even when I use tools like Adobe Acrobat. Soon I will end up as an Adobe Operator.
- I am not always reviewing the same PDF version as another person, and our pagination is out of sync.
- Searching a large PDF is cumbersome and often fails if individual pages are not searchable.
- I spend too much time scrolling up and down the PDF to find a page.
- I am concerned about the security of the data I am sharing via email.
- I am finding it difficult to direct parties to a particular document when they are spread over more than one PDF
Case Center has a facility called eBridge. This allows you to download a one-page PDF that contains the link to the case file. You load that one-page PDF to the court e-Filing system. The link in the PDF always takes an authorized user to the latest version of the evidence.
You can also download the fully indexed and paginated complete PDF from Case Center if required, provided you have been granted the permission to do this.
The judge waits for the party that is preparing the evidence case file to send the judge a link by email. When that link arrives, the judge clicks on the link and is able to view the evidence in their internet browser.
If the judge is clicking on the link for the first time, he or she follows a simple and secure registration process. During the hearing, the presenting party can direct the judge to a page automatically, and the required page appears on the judge’s screen.
Case Center is opened separately to the video conferencing facility, sometimes on a second screen or on a second PC or tablet. The presenting party can place a link to the case in the video conference chat room, which opens directly into Case Center on a separate browser to the video conferencing facility.
This approach is suitable for both the largest cases and the smallest. For example, this approach has been used for major cases with 130,000 pages of evidence and over 200 people representing 30 different parties, with constant daily updates to the evidence case files. At the same time, this approach is also used today for all criminal cases today in England and Wales where the average size of case is approximately 300 pages.
Case Center is suitable and has been used for virtual hearings of all types, including custody applications, case management conferences, interim motions and applications all the way to full trials. It is easy to operate and requires no operator so it is both a cost effective and a practical solution to sharing evidence with court and other lawyers even when only a few documents are needed. Case Center provides the necessary evidence review tools to support video or teleconferences, enabling everyone to see the same evidence at the same time.
Other parties receive evidence in the same way as the judge. Each person registers on the Case Center system and then clicks on the link they receive from the preparing party. If they have access to more than one case, they will see a case list from which they can select the case they need to review.
Yes, Case Center allows you to create a sub-case file which contains a reduced set of evidence, taken from the main ‘Master Case File’. Your expert witness is then invited specifically into the sub-case file and can use Case Center in the normal way, albeit with a restricted set of evidence.
The indexes for the evidence and the pagination numbering for all the evidence are created automatically, so there is no need to manually construct an index or apply pagination numbering. Alternative pagination schemes can be chosen. The index is based on the names of the files that are uploaded and the individual index entries can be modified and re-ordered after the files have been uploaded.
You load video and audio files into the Case Center case. They are watched using the internet browser on each participant’s machine.
The Judge and parties add private or shared notes using the Case Center notes facility. The notes stay securely in place when new documents or videos are added to the case. Widely shared notes can be used to progress issues outside of a specific hearing if appropriate.
The new document or video is uploaded to the Case Center case and is then available to all those with access to the case. There is no requirement to send out the document or video by email or upload it to an e-Filing system, nor to print it or burn a DVD or create a memory stick.
The normal approach is for the preparing party (typically the applicant) to upload all material into the case file including material from other parties. Material from other parties is sent to the preparing party by email, drop box or similar. Following upload by the preparing party, the result is verified by the other party by reviewing the evidence in the Case Center case. In some matters the preparing party gives time-limited permission to another party to upload evidence directly into one or more sections.
Each individual in the remote hearing needs the following:
- A reasonably good internet connection.
- Two screens. These can be on one PC or ideally on two different devices. For example, you could use a PC for accessing the video platform for the hearing and sharing a clean copy of the case file via screen share and a second to view your version of the case file with any notes visible. The Case Center help desk can advise on the best approach.