Chief Judge William Smith Embraces Digital Technology

Newly-minted Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, William E. Smith, has a great profile in today’s Providence Journal regarding his views on technology and the courts.

His comments received plaudits from the Rhode Island media, who have sought to report live from the courtroom.

“Digital technology allows public institutions, like the courts, to connect with the people they serve in a way that previously has only been available ‘in person.’ We should embrace this, because the more people connect with their government, the more they will understand it, want to participate in it and the more accountable it will be,” he said in response to questions about technology.

“I believe that the coming years will see increasingly creative uses of digital technology in the courts; our challenge is to manage this carefully, and with great respect for confidentiality and privacy,” he said. “The challenge for the judicial system is significant because we work with a great deal of information that must be kept confidential for various reasons.

“So, as we become more public and accessible through innovative technology, we need to ensure that lawyers and court personnel pay close attention to avoid the release of confidential information, because once documents are filed and ‘on the Web,’ it is very difficult to pull them back,” he said.

The federal court is already quite advanced in the use of technology: from the courtroom to the online court filling and document viewing system.


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