UW News

January 15, 2004

Justice, media experts to consider privacy

In what is thought to be the nation’s first major conference on technology, values and the justice system, futurists and legal experts will gather Friday at the UW School of Law amid sharp debate over the privacy and safety of putting court records online.

Competing views on access to online records will be presented by a leading domestic-violence victim advocate, an assistant U.S. attorney and the executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington.

But the two-day conference on Technology, Values and the Justice System also will explore many other challenges posed by emerging technology, such as how to get it into the hands of the poor, minorities and people with disabilities.

“The justice system is the first place that should do away with the Digital Divide,” said Don Horowitz, a retired King County judge who heads a project that has drafted sweeping technology rules and principles being considered by the state’s courts.

Technology could, for example, enable a domestic violence victim to file a protection petition from a neighborhood electronic kiosk, or enable the contents of a computer screen to be spoken to a blind person. On the other hand, if access to motions and other court services is limited to the technologically savvy elite, unfairness will grow.

Speakers tackling these challenges include:

  • Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf, on authenticating online information.
  • Washington State Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, who will warn of the dangers of “just letting technology happen” without strict measures to ensure access, inclusion and equality.
  • Helen Nissenbaum, a New York University professor and author on hackers, cybersecurity and online value systems.
  • John McKay, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, who will discuss national and federal implications of technology in the justice system.

The conference runs all day Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at the law school’s William H. Gates Hall on the UW campus.

The full schedule is posted at http://www.uwcle.org/techaccess2003.htm.

Under intense debate in nearly every state is how courts can protect the privacy and safety of victims, witnesses, jurors and others involved with the justice system as public records traditionally stored in file folders go online for any Internet user to find. Panelists on the access versus privacy issue will present their divergent views Friday at 3:15 p.m.

Other conference highlights include Friday’s session with Harvard legal historian Morton Horwitz; a panel on professional responsibility led by UW Law Dean W.H. (Joe) Knight Jr.; and a look at access to law around the world by retired state Supreme Court Justice Robert Utter.

UW participants include computer science professor Ed Lazowska, law professors Rob Aronson, Jackie McMurtrie and Lou Wolcher, and Information School Dean Mike Eisenberg and professors Bob Boiko, Batya Friedman and Ken Himma.

The event is hosted by the School of Law, Washington Law Review and the Washington State Access to Justice Technology Bill of Rights Committee. It is co-sponsored by the UW Information School and the law school’s Shidler Center for Law, Commerce and Technology.