For many years I have been an admirer for the Argentina Judiciary’s Center for Judicial Information website. I think that it is one of the best judicial websites in the world and it is one that should be studied and monitored by other judiciaries. Via our good friend, Mr. Luis Maria Palma, President of E-Justicia Latinoamerica and a Vice-President of the International Association for Court Administration we were able to contact Ms. Maria Bourdin, who late last year was named as head of their Ministry of Communication and Open Government. She was kind enough to answer our questions and share information regarding their excellent court website.
1. What was the purpose or reason that the Argentina judiciary created the Center for Judicial Information?
The initial purpose was to allow the community to have a better comprehension of the judiciary decisions, furthering the access to public judicial information as part of a communication strategy made by the Supreme Court of Justice of Argentina through a model of "open doors". JIC (cij.gov.ar) is the official website dedicated to cover thoroughly the activities of the court rooms.
Soon after its launching, the JIC transformed itself in a News Agency of the Judiciary, that officially covers the court’s news on a continual basis. The information produced in the Argentine court rooms is captured and provides news to society in a journalistic and technicality free language directly or indirectly through the press.
At the same time, a decision database was created in which courts from the entire country publish directly every decision. All the decisions are free to access, unrestricted, and are available to the society as a whole including journalists and the academic community.
In addition, JIC TV (cij.gov.ar/cijtv) is an online broadcasting streaming service that also includes on demand content via our own multiscreen platform that is supported by our extensive video database. Throughout the workday live trials and institutional events are transmitted from any province that can be followed on any fixed or mobile device.
2. What benefits have been realized by the Judiciary from the website?
Judges express themselves verbally and in writing through their sentences. But most of the times, especially when the cases are relevant for the nation, there is an interest on a judicial decision that surpasses the norm. This is where the JIC collaborates with the judges by providing a communication tool that allows them to have the judicial news published in an official way, in the official media of the Judiciary. It’s the Judiciary itself that divulges the news formally and, therefore, the public information is at everyone’s reach, equally.
3. What are the benefits for the public?
Because of the JIC, the Supreme Court of Argentina started a new approach by opening institutional information and relevance designed as a state policy. It created a new way of public communication by adapting itself to modern times by adopting the need and constant evolution for access to information. As a result, oral trials, sentences, resolutions, decrees and public hearings are now available without restriction.
The JIC's core work is based on information transparency. From the institutional point of view, the JIC is a concrete and effective answer to every citizen's right to gain access to public information that comes from the Judiciary, in an easy, quick and predictable way. Citizens can get to know, understand and in turn if they wish to be able to criticize the judicial decisions.
4. What is the composition of the staff that creates and maintains the site? In other words, what does it take organizationally to do something like what you have done?
The JIC is part of the communication services section of the Supreme Court, which also includes Press Management. This section assists in internal communication issues and organizes the necessary actions on coverage of the media. It supports the Open Government policy, which in turn promotes transparency, access to information and citizen participation. All of these initiatives are served by small group made up of professionals in the areas of communication, programming and design in the Department of Communications and Open Government of the Supreme Court of Argentina.
5. And last, what are the future plans for the site?
The Supreme Court of Argentina understands that communication is a state policy and, in that sense, it has begun to progressively implement long-term remodeling of its information systems. The process started in 2008 with the creation of the JIC as a news platform of the Judiciary, and then with the start up of JIC TV as an audiovisual aid to broadcast oral trials, public hearings and institutional events live.
In that context, the Judicial Open Government (csjn.gov.ar) was incorporated, to put at the disposal of citizens, through a platform, relevant institutional and judicial information related to the activity of the Supreme Court and its running, its administrative decisions and its management decisions. It is all about the proactive publishing of information with a simplified search engine.
The most recent step was the publishing of Open Data (datos.csjn.gov.ar), an open code data platform that promotes transparency, access to information and citizen participation. Its contents may be reused and redistributed unrestricted. Information is now, not only free and unrestricted, but reusable.
The communication system of the Court of Argentina is a dynamic process built every day, as a concrete answer to the right that every citizen has access to the information produced by the public authorities and, at the same time, it accompanies the technological evolution of journalistic products, adapting itself to new times and to the need of access to information.
Congratulations to the Supreme Court and Judiciary of Argentina for this impressive program. We believe that it is something that courts from around the world can watch, learn, and apply to their situation.