A View from Christopher Mims
Filing a Lawsuit? Soon, There's an App for That
Poland’s online-only court handled 2 million cases in its first year alone.
Poland has created an online court that allows plaintiffs and defendants to carry their cases to completion entirely on the web. According to Polish-speaking “geek of all trades” Daniel Janus, the Sixth Civil Division of the Lublin-West Regional Court in Lublin, Poland has jurisdiction over the entire country of Poland, and handles only cases concerning payment claims.
It has proven immensely popular, having processed about two million cases in its first year of operation.
Lawyers who are already concerned about dwindling employment prospects, you may now run for the exits.
The really crazy thing is that the world’s first all-digital court doesn’t just have a website – it also has an API. Which means that, if you wanted to, you could create an mobile app that would make it convenient for you to sue someone. In a society as litigious as ours, that is either the ultimate deterrent or a recipe for a nightmarish future in which even the least slight is litigated on the spot.
The English-language explanation of the workings of Poland’s e-court makes the system sound breathtakingly efficient:
The claimant (party who brings the action) communicates with the Court exclusively electronically by means of a system dedicated to the electronic writ of payment proceedings.
If the official concludes that the claim is well-grounded the electronic system prepares a draft of the order which is subsequently signed by the official using the electronic signature. (special individual code assigned to court officials considering cases). In the event where the claim appears groundless, no payment order (writ of payment)follows, and the case is transferred to the competent court for detailed consideration.
Requests sent via the system’s API are limited to one per second in order to thwart attacks by hackers and/or overeager plaintiffs. The API is in Polish, but Janus says it’s understandable enough when run through Google Translate. Methods include FileLawsuits, FileComplaints, SupplyDocuments, GetCaseHistory, etc.
To give you an example, the FileLawsuits method returns a structure that consists of, inter alia, the amount of court fee to pay, the value of the matter of dispute (both broken down into individual lawsuits), and a status code with a description.
Imagine a plugin to enhance websites like Get Satisfaction that would allow users not merely to complain, but also to file for damages. Small claims court will never be the same.