How courts have adapted to Covid-19 provided the backdrop for a recent webinar co-organised by the College of Law at Hamad Bin Khalifa University and the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (QICDRC).
The American Society of International Law also served as a sponsor of the event, which attracted participants from around the world.
The webinar featured a distinguished panel of experts with vast experience and knowledge in trying cases and conducting hearings. QICDRC contributions were led by its president, the Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and Christopher Grout, the court’s registrar.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the QICDRC has handled hearings online. Chief Judge Barbara MG Lynn of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, the first federal judge to try a criminal case in the US since the pandemic surfaced, also participated.
College of Law dean Susan L Karamanian, a lawyer who tried cases in US courts, provided insights principally from the perspective of access to justice. The discussion primarily focused on the challenges of remote hearings and new ways of structuring in-person trials to maintain social distancing while respecting due process. The webinar highlighted the important role of technology yet also acknowledged its limits, particularly when examination of witnesses is critical to the fact-finding process. Proceedings concluded with questions and answers and additional interventions from an online audience.
Speaking after the webinar, College of Law associate professor Dr George Dimitropoulos and moderator of the session said: “While disruptive, Covid-19 has prompted courts to adapt and do so quickly. Many courts, such as the QICDRC, the Qatar courts and US courts, have the technology for e-filings and online hearings. An interesting observation from the session is whether in certain jurisdictions what were once ‘live’ hearings, in which legal argument is the sole matter before the court as opposed to admission of evidence and examination of witnesses, will now largely shift to the online platform.
“Our panelists confirmed there is no one-size-fits-all approach to keeping courts up-and-running during crises.”
The College of Law regularly holds events that showcase its research interests and activities. For more information, visit cl.hbku.edu.qa.
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