Together with the Dubai Future Foundation, another government body, the DIFC Courts have recently launched a project, which is entitled the Courts of the Future (COF) Forum and focuses on proposing a global outlook for challenges of the future and find solutions to how Courts should best address them. The Forum brought together a group of 13 experts from across the world as its members, with the goal to design guidelines and prototype a commercial court that can operate from anywhere worldwide. The COF initiative will help create certainty for businesses, investors and entrepreneurs currently unsure of the legal implications of rapid technological advancements. It also considered new ways to oversee disruptive technology such as driverless cars, drones, Blockchain and cybersecurity.
Thinking through the judicial implications of emerging technologies is the Forum’s first priority. The second is to unlock the power of the same innovations to transform the experience of using a court for the end-user, the legal sector and the judiciary itself. This new initiative is about thinking big for big business, thinking smart for small business and thinking ahead for businesses of the future.
The initiative consists of five distinct pillars:
The DIFC Courts are interested in developing dispute resolution services which can meet the needs of technology-driven businesses and citizens of the future, to ensure efficient, effective and fair delivery of justice. These goals can be accomplished by focusing on at least three different aspects:
1. The use of technology within the court system
Public courts around the world struggle with case backlogs. Especially in citizen disputes (C2C or B2C), parties most likely end up in national courts. Supreme Courts in different countries, and even international fora such as the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, face the same challenges. This phenomenon occurs because of the fact that established procedures are sometimes slow, and information automatization is not very well spread.
2. The understanding of technology by Courts
Ever heard about the judge who started to learn to code so he could understand his cases better? Disputes relating to complex technologies such as self-driving cars, unmanned aircraft vehicles or 3D-printing need a complex understanding of these systems. However, this type of information is difficult to retrieve and digest, so judges cannot be expected to have degrees in engineering or computer programming. However, they must still be able to develop expertise iinspecific fields, so their assessment of various cases receives the trust of the community or the industry.
3. Using technology in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Apart from court procedures, the DIFC Courts’ partner entities all operate under one umbrella division – the Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA), to provide a full range of dispute resolution services, which include also arbitration and mediation. Normally, such services require physical presence and are provided in a face-to-face setting, but with the rise of Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR), some of these methods of dispute resolution could fundamentally change.
Now that you know what the DIFC Courts stand for and are interested in, we are looking forward to hearing advice from you on matters such as the ones listed below. The questions are designed to guide your thought process and do not necessarily require a full answer. Please pick 1-2 questions from this document (or more, if you deem they are related), and focus on devising a creative idea or solution which you find interesting and relevant, to help address how courts of the future should look like. Out-of-the-box thinking is highly encouraged.
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is designed to be a financial free zone offering a unique, independent legal and regulatory framework in order to create an environment for growth, progress and economic development in the UAE and the wider region. The DIFC Courts are common-law courts created in the United Arab Emirates in 2006, which operates exclusively in English, for the independent administration of justice, in relation to civil or commercial cases and disputes. The DIFC Courts do not, however, have jurisdiction over criminal matters. The DIFC Courts were established under two laws enacted by the late Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the then Ruler of Dubai. The laws establishing the DIFC Courts were designed to ensure the highest international standards of legal procedure, thus ensuring that the DIFC Courts provide the certainty, flexibility and efficiency expected by the global institutions operating in, with and from Dubai and the UAE. The laws enacted provide for a court system capable of resolving all civil and commercial disputes, ranging from sophisticated cross-border transactions to smaller claims such as debt collection and employment disputes.
The DIFC Courts have a judicial bench of 10 justices from leading common-law jurisdictions, including 3 resident Emirati judges. Since their inception the DIFC Courts have heard a wide range of cases, covering matters such as complex financial transactions, real estate, breach of contract and high-profile employment disputes. By way of reference, in 2016 the total amount of claims and counterclaims filed in the Court of First Instance was 739.90 million US dollars. The average value per claim was 28.3 million US dollars.