As the Chief Judge of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami, I experienced first-hand my colleagues’ reluctance to adopt technology. We had the means at our disposal to adopt new methods, such as livestreaming our oral arguments, yet some of my colleagues were fearful of unintended consequences. When I first came to the court in January 2000, every judge had a computer, but some would not even turn theirs on, perhaps still suffering from Y2K hysteria.
Now that I am an arbitrator and mediator with JAMS, I have encountered the same anti-technology qualms. We have made tremendous strides in making conference calls cheaper. For those of us who have suffered through the adversities of airplane travel, the option of appearing by telephone can be quite attractive. Yet I hear: “I want to see people in the flesh; I want to read their body language.” Having been an attorney for 13 years, a judge for 12 years and an appellate judge for another 12 years, I believe people’s professed ability to read body language is very overrated. My credibility determinations were based more on whether the witnesses’ stories made sense, rather than the direction in which they averted their eyes. I am not advocating abandoning face-to-face alternative dispute resolution (ADR) sessions in most cases. They are unquestionably more valuable than telephonic ones. But I do believe that technology will not wait for us to become more comfortable with its advances. We need to stay current with innovation and adopt those improvements that work.