Courts in Victoria, Australia, During COVID: Will Digital Innovation Stick?
journal contributionposted on 06.07.2021, 03:57 by Anne Wallace, K Laster
We present a case-study of the swift digital response to COVID-19 restrictions by the courts in the State of Victoria, Australia’s second-largest jurisdiction. We analyse the extent to which the management of this crisis (Step 1 in John Kotter’s model of innovation) can serve as the catalyst for digital innovation in these courts. We contend that the history of innovation in Australia is of quick, pragmatic fixes which do not translate into systematic change. For example, although Australian courts are often credited with being pioneers in court technology, recourse to apparent ‘virtual courts’ before and during COVID is probably not truly innovative. Applying Boschma’s theory about the 5 ‘proximities’ which promote innovation — geographical, social, cognitive, institutional and organisational — we maintain that for these courts, those factors have, paradoxically, worked in the opposite direction to undermine technological innovation. However COVID has seen critical changes in a number of these elements, supported by ideological and practical concerns for courts. Taken together, we are cautiously optimistic that post-COVID, Kotter’s final stage of “Making it Stick” through a technologically friendly legal culture which supports systematic and sustained court innovation, might just be possible if government is willing to fund a grander innovation agenda and has confidence in the courts’ ability to carry it through.