Technology and lawyers

By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas

“But what if the mechanic or the farmer don’t even know how to surf the internet, much less understand simple English. It would be a disaster.”

Indeed, technology is a blessing for lawyers, for instance.
A witness in the USA can now be presented in our Philippine courts without her having to come home. She could be seen and talked to in court, in real time. So I experienced this the other week in a court in La Union.
She was in the USA so we practiced her thru Skype in the office. Our Facebook was also on stand by just in case Skype failed in the middle of the process. We were asking the questions and she was answering. We could see her on the monitor of the laptop. We would correct her as to the contents of her answers or in the way she expressed herself. As if she was there in the room with us. After two trials we were confident she would do well. She also showed that she was not rattled when we cross examined her, unlike during the first practice.
What was the case about? It was one for a lifetime. It was for the annulment of her marriage. For years her life had been hampered by that marriage hovering over her, wherever she went, whatever she did. It had become meaningless already 10 years ago when she found out that her husband already had another family. For two years she had been hesitating whether to file the case. Finally, she decided to go for it due to what happened to a lady friend who was working as a nurse in Saudi Arabia.
This lady friend also found out her philanderer husband already had another family. She had been hesitating to file for the annulment of her marriage. Then she died in Saudi Arabia due the SARS virus. The Saudi government had to pay her family some accumulated benefits and the closest relative entitled to receive the amount was the husband. Lucky philanderer husband. Did the money go to their kids or to his kids with his girlfriend he was living with? That was the question which we could not answer.
With this unfortunate event, my client decided for the filing of the case because she did not want her philanderer husband to be the beneficiary in case something happened to her. She wanted her own kids to be her beneficiaries.
So the other week she was our last witness. After two sessions of practice we loaded our gear in the car and off we drove to La Union. There was a big TV monitor for the judge while our opponent had to make do with the monitor of our laptop. I had a techie staff taking care of these gadgets while I minded the presentation of the witness. Everything was going smoothly when suddenly the Skype conked out. We could see our witness but we could not hear her. We switched to the Messenger facility of Facebook but the same thing happened. The staff of the court again observed that the witness could hear us but we could not hear her. So she suggested if we could contact the witness through cellphone so we could hear what she was saying. So my staff tried that tack and it worked. We could hear her again through my old hand-me-down iPhone and our opponent was able to finish his cross examination of the witness. At least, we did not have to go back again for the same witness. That would have been very expensive as I would have to be accompanied again by my techie staff and another one to video tape (as required) what was happening in court.
It was a big relief also for the client who had been agonizing for years for the whole thing to become a thing of the past, so she could move on..
Of course, as every practicing lawyer knows, such presentation has to be authorized by the court through a motion. Many judges now would allow it subject to certain safeguards which would be contained in an order.
This event shows what we had been saying here all along. That the best benefit from technology would be reaped by those who are educated, formally or informally.
Another concrete example are mechanics who are computer savvy. When they encounter some problems on how to fix difficult problems of a particular model of a vehicle, the first thing they do is to surf the internet. Somebody out there might have gone through the same problem who was not selfish enough to post how he dealt with the matter.
The same thing in other fields. In agriculture, for example, dealing with a recalcitrant pest can be readily researched through the internet.
But what if the mechanic or the farmer don’t even know how to surf the internet, much less understand simple English. It would be a disaster.

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