A2J: Now Helping Pro Se Litigants in New York State Courts

We were surprised at the reactions (here and here) that A2J Author got at the CALI Conference this year. Mostly because many of our attendees thought it was a new product.

This is mostly the fault of the author of this post for not doing his job. So here are some facts about A2J Author:

  1. A2J Author, the software, was created by CALI around 2004 for Chicago-Kent's Center for Access to Justice and Technology (CAJT). We continue to work with CAJT to update and improve the software. Here's a Business Week article that gives more background info.
  2. A2J Author allows attorneys to create computer-based interviews so that self-represented litigants can create (oftentimes confusing) legal documents and forms.
  3. The resulting A2J interview walks self-represented litigants step-by-step through a series of questions using a computer. When completed, the answers to the interview questions result in the creation of a court document for the self-represented litigant.

  4. A number of court systems throughout the country already use A2J guided interviews (see a few examples at the bottom of this link).
  5. And, yes, A2J Author is free to courts and legal service organizations.

Below is the most recent example of how A2J Author is helping court systems create programs for pro se clients to more easily navigate the courts, this time in New York State Courts.

June 17, 2009, New York, NY - Today, Justice Fern A. Fisher, Director of the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program and C. Kenneth Perri, Executive Director of Legal Assistance of Western New York announced the release of three new computer programs that will help New Yorkers navigate the legal system. These DIY (Do It Yourself) programs ask straight-forward questions to help users prepare individualized court forms and instructions.

New Yorkers can access the programs from any computer through two websites: CourtHelp (nycourthelp.gov) and LawHelpNY (lawhelp.org/ny). The three state-wide DIY programs are the Support Modification Petition Program for Family Court, the Small Estates Affidavit Program for Surrogate's Court, and the Adult Name Change Petition Program for Supreme Court.

Almost two million New Yorkers appear without lawyers in New York State courts each year. "These programs are part of our continuing effort to make the courts more accessible to the ever growing number of New Yorkers who are unable to afford an attorney," said Justice Fisher. The DIY programs were built as part of an innovative partnership between legal services advocates and court system personnel. Mr. Perri said, "We are excited to be working with the court system toward the same goal: greater access to justice."

The New York State Unified Court System partnered with Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY), Legal Services NYC, LawHelp/NY, and Pro Bono Net in this project, which was funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and the State Justice Institute (SJI). The Chicago-Kent College of Law provides the A2J Author® software used to create these programs, and the National Public Automated Documents Online (NPADO) Project of Pro Bono Net provides servers and Internet support. Free, online document creation systems hosted by NPADO are used in 26 states and generated 111,000 documents in 2008.

A2J Author®, created by The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), is provided at no cost to courts and legal services organizations HotDocs® server software licensed by Lexis-Nexis® automatically assembles the forms and instructions into printable documents.

For more information, or to test the programs, visit http://nycourthelp.gov/diy

Contact: Jeff Hogue (jhogue@lawny.org) 315-781-1465

---- https://docs.google.com/document/d/10_3OKwEy28V9RElmahcV-lo7ibHsjXGJtEFHIEXBlZU/preview


We're very proud of A2J Author and its role in helping CAJT give self-represented litigants the ability navigate a legal system that can be confusing and foreign to most. So we hope you help us spread the word about A2J.

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