As a legal services organization with an interest in new and emerging technologies and a strong commitment to public service, the issue of litigants’ access to justice is one of particular interest to the Cyberlaw Clinic. In the current economy, more people are seeking legal redress through the courts while fewer than ever are represented by lawyers; at the same time, court budges have been slashed, and there are fewer personnel to help the public. The Clinic has dedicated considerable time and resources in recent years to working to ensure litigants — and, in particular, low-income and pro se litigants — understand and can make use of the justice system and that courts do what they can to facilitate such access using technology.
Since 2009, the Cyberlaw Clinic has been actively involved in an effort to assist the Massachusetts court system to evaluate ways to use technology to assist citizens in navigating the legal system while easing the burden on under-resourced courts. Working closely with Massachusetts housing court judge Diana Fein, who has been appointed as a special adviser for Access to Justice Initiatives by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Clinic has examined technology initiatives in courts around the country, interviewed court and legal aid personnel, technology specialists and vendors, and analyzed relevant literature. Several Cyberlaw Clinic students, working under the direction of Cyberlaw Clinic Director Phil Malone, prepared a July 2010 preliminary report in an effort to help the Massachusetts Trial Court work toward a comprehensive, holistic strategic plan for maximizing technology’s role in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Access to Justice Initiative.