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Can anonymous online jurors really deliver a legally binding resolution to a blockchain or cryptocurrency dispute?

An intriguing new service called Jury.online has recently come to our attention.  According to their marketing blurb, Jury.online enables users to have any deals they are dissatisfied with reviewed by a panel of jurors who will “deliver a judgement in favour of one of the parties”.

The reasons behind the site’s launch appear to be that its owners aren’t satisfied with the way certain types of disputes (primarily those relating to deals involving blockchain and modern cryptographic systems) are managed and feel it is time litigation is made more “transparent, secure and convenient”.

Admittedly, they are very open in listing the reasons for their dissatisfaction (high costs the majority of us are not equipped to cover, the time it takes for cases to be resolved, the possibility a judgement may never actually be executed, confusion over the jurisdictions involved and a lack of choice over whose laws will be applied to resolve the dispute).

They also set out how the process works very clearly within the ‘Operation’ section of their accompanying white paper but an initial look through the site suggests the way the resolution is actually achieved is slightly less clear.

They tell us the form of dispute resolution may vary but:

“Usually the system chooses random judges who receive anonymized information about the deal and make​ ​ a​ ​ decision​ ​ by​ ​ an​ ​ absolute​ ​ majority​ ​ of​ ​ votes. Judges are provided from a source called a judge pool: most simply, this is done by Jury.online, but third parties specializing in a certain field may also offer​ ​ dispute​ ​ resolution​ ​ services … the identity of judges is not known to the parties, but their competence is.”  

And:

“Other forms of judging are accessible: instead of several random, unknown judges, the parties may agree on a specific judge they consider fair and impartial.”

I’m not sure about you but when it comes to achieving the best resolution to a dispute that is likely to involve significant sums of money, this all seems a little too vague.  More importantly, it also throws up some very pointed questions about exactly why the jury are being kept so independent (and so anonymous), about the jurors’ legal qualifications, experience and suitability and as to how the jurors are remunerated.

It seems like a day doesn’t go by without a brand new idea on how to use blockchain in an even more ingenious way exploding into the market.  I’m not a Luddite, progress has to be made, but just as some of these new ideas are quite brilliant, some are just unworkable.  Unfortunately I have to say my initial feeling is Jury.online is probably in the latter group.

My main concern is the whole concept of online dispute resolution will never be able to sit comfortably within the English Legal system because the Civil Procedure Rules that govern litigation are already very clearly set out. 

If the online model was followed, it would tie the parties to a contract (albeit a smart contract held on the blockchain) that stated any dispute arising from that contract would have to be passed to the aforementioned 'independent jurors' for resolution.   In turn this would mean that if one of the parties involved was to bypass this and go straight to court, the other party/parties would have grounds to try and get the initial claims thrown out or at least seek a stay of proceedings until the contractually agreed form of arbitration (i.e. the anonymous online panel) was exhausted.  

The only thing is, even if the independent jurors were allowed to reach a decision, it would be wide open to appeal because the ruling made by an anonymous, online panel of jurors could never be legally binding in the same way that, for example, a decision made in the London Court of International Arbitration would be. 

There is an argument that an online model like this could possibly work for small disputes involving small sums of money.  It will definitely allow them to keep legal costs to a minimum and avoid lengthy and expensive legal litigation.  However, I can’t help but think it will never offer a viable alternative to the systems already in place as, within the UK at least, it cannot provide a legally binding decision or completely remove the right of the party to issue proceedings in court.

Selachii LLP are specialists in resolving international disputes and are one of the only firms in the UK and Europe who specialise in disputes involving blockchain, smart contracts and cryptocurrency technology.  If you are facing any potential dispute and need to find out what to do next then don’t go online, call us today on 020 7792 5649 or email us at info@selachii.co.uk

 

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