Tell Lawmakers: It’s Time to Invest in Access to Justice for All.
The civil justice system is designed by lawyers and for lawyers, and trying to navigate complex court processes without legal representation can be almost impossible. But for thousands of people facing life-changing challenges like wrongful eviction or crushing debt who cannot afford a lawyer, going it alone is their only option.
Research shows that technology can help solve this crisis by making the courts more accessible and better meeting the needs of communities. Yet because the courts’ IT systems are so out-of-date, when it comes to technology, many of these reforms remain out of reach. We need the legislature to act.
The Judiciary IT Bond bill (H.4499) represents an opportunity to update the Massachusetts Trial Court’s severely outdated IT structure and fund online innovations that can help people successfully navigate the courts and protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.
Here’s just a small sample of what this bill would do:
- Create an “Access to Justice Portal,” an online tool enabling people to prepare for their hearing at home – rather than being forced to take time off work or coordinate childcare to visit the court in person – and access self-help resources so they can know their rights
- Establish free Wi-Fi inside courthouses so court users can communicate with childcare or work, or look up legal information without racking up cellular data charges
- Institute a remote video interpreting system to eliminate the current hours-long delays immigrant and limited English proficient litigants are forced to endure when waiting for language services
Massachusetts residents shouldn’t need a law degree to avoid catastrophe. By funding these essential and long-overdue technological improvements, the legislature can reduce disparities between wealthy and low-income litigants, ease burdens on working families, provide language access for immigrant and limited English proficient residents, and empower everyone to resolve their civil legal problems – whether they can afford a lawyer or not.
We’ve already started a message for you – click “Start Writing” above to add your own details and urge the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets to issue a favorable report for this bill. Lawmakers need to hear from us so they know that ensuring fairness in our justice system must be a priority!