An important article in the ABA Journal discusses the potential for electronic service and notice. Read the whole thing.
In the article, Glenn Rawdon of LSC is quoted laying down the issues for the poor and self-represented very clearly.
If state or federal legislation to adopt electronic service of process were introduced, say many lawyers, consumer advocacy groups would likely object. However, according to Glenn Rawdon, program counsel for technology with the Legal Services Corp., most legal aid groups see electronic notice in the future. He mentions a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project that found 46 percent of Americans earning less than $30,000 per year have some kind of wireless Internet access.
Rawdon says e-filing “was designed to bring in big law firms with big lawsuits. But if you make electronic service available, it has to be available for everyone.”
The biggest concern Rawdon has about electronic service is how it would work for pro se litigants. The courts would need to build a secure e-filing system, he says, where someone could check on case information, docketing and whether their pleadings were served. He would also like to see courthouse hardware for public use. If individuals don’t have Internet access, Rawdon says, public computer banks at libraries may not be all that helpful because usage is often limited to 20 minutes.
“Many of our low-income clients do not have email addresses or home computers,” Rawdon says. “Will we allow e-service via text messaging since most low-income adults have cellphones?”
Also, the system could not require a credit card to verify identification, Rawdon says, because many low-income litigants do not have credit cards.
“And not everyone is proficient enough to navigate the system,” adds Rawdon, who previously served as the managing attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma. “And what about someone who is limited in English proficiency? Or waivers for filing fees?”
Well put, Glenn. This article will help make sure that these systems are not put in without careful attention to the low and middle income and self-represented people. We all need to work on strategies to make sure that such attention is paid. This is particularly the responsibility of access commissions, with their ability to appeal to a broad range of stakeholders.