TECHNOLOGY AND COURTS

TECHNOLOGY AND COURTS

Technology is changing the way civil legal aid is delivered. For example, in most states it is now possible for an self-represented litigant to go online and find most if not all of the necessary forms needed to initiate and litigate certain types of lawsuits. A recent Huffington Post article, "As Demand Rises, Civil Legal Aid Innovates to Expand Access to Resources" describes these advances in more detail. 

 

The website LawHelp.org is an example of how technology can empower self-represented litigants by making it easy to search for free legal aid programs, information, and legal forms by state or territory.  The website provides information and forms to self-represented litigants in all 50 states. Recently, some advocates have even begun to use online questionnaires and smart phone apps to guide self-represented litigants through the legal system and assist them in filling out legal forms. The New York Times recently published an opinion piece on this topic, "Legal Aid with a Digital Twist."

 

While there are benefits to providing self-represented litigants with standardized, do-it-yourself forms, these forms may do more harm than good when they are provided without any further guidance. While some self-represented litigants are able to navigate these forms with ease, to many others these forms are confusing and frustrating. If filled out incorrectly they could lead to results that are unfavorable to the litigant. For more information, read Overstepping Ethical Boundaries? Limitations on State Efforts to Provide Access to Justice in Family Courts.

 

 

RESOURCES

Lonnie A. Powers, As Demand Rises, Civil Legal Aid Innovates to Expand Access to Resources, Huffington Post (July 11, 2014, 12:13 PM).  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lonnie-a-powers/as-demand-rises-civil-leg_b_5534207.html. (Last visited Oct 10, 2014).

 

LawHelp.org, Find Help by State.  http://www.lawhelp.org/find-help.  (Last visited September 19, 2014).

 

Jessica Dixon Weaver, Overstepping Ethical Boundaries? Limitations on State Efforts to Provide 

Access to Justice in Family Courts, 82 Fordham L. Rev. 2705 (2014). Available at http://fordhamlawreview.org/assets/pdfs/Vol_82/No_6/Weaver_May.pdf. (Last visited September 19, 2014).

Tina Rosenberg, Legal aid with a Digital Twist, N.Y. Times (June 1, 2016), http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/01/opinion/legal-aid-with-a-digital-twist.html?mwrsm=Email.