Richard Susskind and Jonathan Zittrain recently sat down for a conversation on online courts, lessons from the COVID-19 crisis, and how we might move forward. The conversation was moderated by David B. Wilkins, faculty director of the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession.
David B. Wilkins: I want to thank Richard Susskind and Jonathan Zittrain for being here for this special Speaker’s Corner of The Practice. Our goal here is to have a conversation. This all started because Richard wrote Online Courts and the Future of Justice (Oxford University Press, 2019), which was, as he always is, prescient, coming out when remote courts were just theory. Fast-forward to today: online courts are everywhere, and he’s written the lead story for this issue of The Practice about this current moment. While Richard’s article speaks for itself, today I want to engage with both of you on the big macro issues at play. And I’m going to start by highlighting a news story that you both have probably already seen about Texas holding its first online jury trial. Now, it’s not really a jury trial. It turned out to be one of those summary jury trials they do to try to get cases to settle. As others have reported, there were issues with the rollout , to say the least. But it is being looked at as one possibility in an era in which we don’t know when we will be able to open physical courts, and one in which there’s a huge backlog of cases building up. Do we adjourn cases, often incarcerating people indefinitely, or do we find other methods of conducting serious criminal trials? – Richard Susskind Richard, I want to start with you because when you spoke in my legal profession class a few months ago, right as the pandemic was hitting, you said, “Well, the one thing I’m not saying is that we should be holding online jury trials.” And yet, here we are. I wonder what you think about that today.
Richard Susskind: I did indeed say that. I remain very cautious […]