“Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.” This idea, expressed in various ways over the centuries, has been a constant in legal circles since before the Founding Fathers put together their plans for a more perfect union.
Although establishing justice is one of the declared aims of the Constitution that resulted from their deliberations, not many within today’s judicial system would confidently state that justice is always administered efficiently or promptly.
This is as it should be when an individual’s life, liberty and happiness are under debate and when weighty matters of state are being discussed. These are not issues to be dismissed lightly or without fair consideration.
But when delay is caused by old-fashioned red-tape – another acknowledged headache for lawyers for more than 600 years – or from bureaucratic processes that belong in the 18th century rather than the 21st, inefficiency is less defensible.
Fortunately, progress is being made. Court systems, both state and federal, are adopting greater levels of electronification and digitization, to cut out some of the more laborious and time-consuming elements in the processing of individual cases and the administration of justice more broadly. Instead of filing original documents at the courthouse in person, filings can now often be carried out remotely and electronically.
This move to digitalization and “E-filing” are seen in a number of important areas, one of which is the posting of court bonds.
Most attorneys at some point in their career will need to secure a court bond to help their client get through the court system. For probate lawyers, bonding a proposed administrator, conservator or guardian of an estate is business as usual. It is good sense to have an established process for securing the bond – after all, it does not look good with the court if they propose somebody who does not have the wherewithal to get a bond.
But for almost every other litigation attorney, making sure that their client is bonded is a preliminary to taking their case to appeal. To put it very bluntly, it is a sign that they have lost at the trial stage.
No one likes losing. And very few want to acknowledge that it happens by building up a list of preferred appeal bond suppliers to turn to in such an eventuality. Consequently, the bonding process has often involved attorneys turning to generalist insurance agents, many of whom will not deal with this very specialty area of surety and insurance.
Eventually, someone knows someone who knows how to acquire the bond. That’s when the paperwork starts, as documents pass between client, attorney, agent, and underwriter – with each intermediary adding a layer of cost and delay.
One alternative is to pass responsibility for securing an appeal bond to the client themselves. It happens fairly frequently. But it often ends up little more than a delaying tactic as clients are no more expert at securing bonds than attorneys.
The result is often just a two-week delay before the process described above kicks off – only this time, within a much-shortened timeframe. All bonds are subject to court requirements and judge’s orders, and all bonds have to be secured before strict deadlines.
It is certainly in the clients’ best interests to ensure that appeal bonds are posted before court-imposed deadlines. If not, the winning party at trial level can send in the sheriff and start enforcing the judgment against the client
But serving a client to the best of their ability is absolutely in the attorney’s interest – even down to the very technical level of getting a bond in place quickly and easily. Reputations are made on it. Law firms are successful because of it. Justice depends on it.
So the availability of specialty court and appeal bonds with transparent pricing, and which can be managed easily, quickly and cost-effectively online, are to be welcomed.
Digital platforms make it possible for attorneys to find the right court bond, start the application, complete the legal details, and hand it on to their client for payment in a matter of minutes. It can all be done from a cell phone – within minutes of the trial judge handing down the judgment and without leaving the courthouse.
It is one less element for attorneys to worry about as they move their clients efficiently and appropriately through the court system. It is compatible with the move to electronic filings that is accelerating throughout the Country. And, it ensures the case can be progressed without interruption or bureaucratic hurdles.
In other words, it is another step towards achieving real justice – without delay.