In an important development for the interaction of technology and access to justice, the California Court system is developing a document titled: Advancing Access to Justice Through Technology: Principles for Judicial Branch Initiatives. It is intended for ultimate approval by the state’s Judicial Council. A draft is now out for public comment at this link.
The Principles in the current draft proposed by the state’s Court Technology Advisory Committee are as follows:
1. Ensure Access and Fairness. Use technologies that allow all court users to have impartial and effective access to justice.
2. Include Self-Represented Litigants. Provide services to those representing themselves and those represented by attorneys.
3. Preserve Traditional Access. Retain conventional means of access to courts for persons challenged by technology.
4. Design for Ease of Use. Build services that are user-friendly and widely available. 5. Provide Education and Support. Develop and roll out training and support for all
technology solutions, particularly those intended for use by the public.
6. Secure Private Information. Design services to comply with privacy laws and to assure users that personal information is properly protected.
7. Provide Reliable Information. Ensure the accurateness and timeliness of information provided to judges, parties, and others.
8. Protect Legal Rights. Define remedies to guarantee that users do not forfeit legal rights when technologies fail or when users are unable to operate systems successfully.
9. Improve Court Operations. Advance court operational practices to make full use of technology and, in turn, provide better service to court users.
10. Plan Ahead. Create technology solutions that are forward thinking and that enable courts to adapt to the changing expectations of the public and court users.
Each proposed principle is accompanied by extensive discussion.
That California is now considering such a step is an important evolution in making sure that technology is used to improve access to justice. Some readers of this blog will recall that as far back as 2004 the Washington State Supreme Court, by Court Order, adopted that state’s own Access to Justice Technology Principles. (Those seeking to comment might find the Washington Principles a stimulus to thought.) Moreover, an issue of the Washington Law Review was dedicated to issues relating to those Principles.
Information on how to comment on the California draft, to be submitted by October 28, 2011, is here.