When the pandemic arrived in 2020, the way in which certain legal proceedings were conducted changed, in some cases radically. These may be the most important and significant updates not deriving from legislative amendments, but rather the existing legal framework. This resulted in certain modifications to the way the legal machinery was carried out to achieve a modernized and efficient system, appropriate to the prevailing health and safety needs.
Those who saw the most changes in their practice are litigation attorneys and court personnel, since prior to the pandemic the law and tradition dictated that court files must always be kept physically, and any legal action must be evidenced on paper. However, the isolation and social distancing ordered by the authorities brought rapid technological advances that have allowed parties to continue legal proceedings, even with the corresponding delays caused by scheduling and by the spread of infections in the workplace.
Such technological advances have been implemented by using identity verification and virtual document delivery systems, through platforms created specifically by the federal and local judicial authorities for such purposes. Such systems have made available to litigants the tools needed to make to review case files virtually through a website or a mobile application, and to be able to file motions without the need to be physically present at the courthouse, as has always been required.
The updates mentioned do not imply that courts are not obliged to keep a physical version of the case file, but with each passing day, the migration to a virtual file management system, as opposed to a physical one, is becoming more of a reality considering the efficiency and convenience of the software in which these documents are created. Likewise, handling a virtual file in the past two years has guaranteed access to justice as provided by the Mexican Constitution and international treaties. Without such advances, and given the suspension of in person activities in the courthouses, it once seemed impossible to ensure parties are provided proper access to justice.
In this context, the various State courthouses throughout Mexico have developed the platforms needed to file motions virtually and have even developed their own advanced electronic signature (i.e. Estado de Mexico, Coahuila and Tamaulipas, among others), which requires that the litigant visit the court’s office to carry out a verification of identity. It should be noted that the Federal Judiciary was able to make available the acquisition of the advanced electronic signature to all its users, through remote verification means with an Interinstitutional Agreement with the National Electoral Institute. Such efforts allowed for and guaranteed access to justice at a time when the public was not allowed to physically review their case files.
These advances allowed the judicial system to continue in motion and to be suspended the little time as possible during the pandemic, especially considering that the administration of justice is an essential activity in any legal system. Without any doubt today there is better access to the court system and the democratization of justice, considering that access to judicial files may be carried out from anywhere in the world and at any time with just an internet connection.
There are certain local courts which to date have not achieved the same technological advances, which makes them less competitive and make access to justice more difficult. In connection with this, in the wake of the pandemic, the judicial system leaves us with technological advances which translate to and materialize in better administration of justice, reduction of time and costs, and a better general perception of the work carried out by judicial authorities.