Use of iPads in Environment Court hearings

Environment Court divisions will shortly be making increased use of iPads for storing and referring to evidence and other material before, during, and after hearings in Court. This follows trials of the use of iPads in large hearings by some divisions of the Court in the last twelve months, which have been considered highly successful by members of the Court, counsel, and others involved in those hearings.

The Ministry of Justice has now supplied iPads to all Judges, Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, and Hearing Managers of the Environment Court. This will enable use of these tablets in a broader range of hearings, starting in the near future. 

Advantages perceived include avoidance of the need to transport and make reference to considerable quantities of paper material.  It has proved possible to load almost all case materials into iPads. One of the few exceptions is some graphic materials which might remain to be displayed by other means, for instance on paper or on large screens in the Courtroom.

The deployment of iPads will proceed on a case-by-case basis, with fair warning given by the Court in conferences and case management directions from early in the life of cases. This will allow counsel and others involved in hearings to suitably equip themselves. This can be important because hearings move significantly more quickly than when the Court and parties are required to navigate their way through large quantities of paper materials.

The Court makes use of an “app” called “GoodReader”, a tool it finds appropriate and intuitive for uploading large quantities of materials, accessing them on the iPad, highlighting, marking, noting, and otherwise managing them.

It is recognised that parties may have preferences for hardware and software different from the above, but the Court recommends that to the greatest extent possible they adopt the same approach as the Court, because speed and efficiency of location of documents by many persons in Court will be aided by people working from identical page references and overall displays.

The Court Registry can offer advice on the use of iPads and GoodReader for cases, but observes at this time that the hardware and software are intuitive and easily mastered in relatively short order. For further information, please contact Rachell Staunton, phone (04) 9188317, or email rachell.staunton@justice.govt.nz.

Judge Laurie Newhook is the Acting Principal Environment Judge.

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