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Records of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology, 1990-2005

The Center for Access to Justice and Technology (CAJT), formerly Justice Web Collaboratory, was formed at Chicago-Kent in 1999. The CAJT worked to make justice more accessible to the public by promoting the use of the Internet in the teaching, practice, and public access to the law. The CAJT conducted research, built software tools, taught classes, and supported faculty, staff, and student projects on access to justice and technology.

The first major focus of the CAJT was Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants: A Consumer Based Approach, or the “Meeting the Needs” project. The project investigated barriers to access to justice facing self-represented litigants, applied system design methodology to redesign court processes, and built an Internet-based prototype for implementation by the courts. The first phase of the project began in August 2000 with a course taught by Professor Ron Staudt, the Justice Web Collaboratory Interprofessional Research Opportunity (IPRO). In the class, 13 law students from Chicago-Kent and 5 graduate design students from the IIT Institute of Design explored existing pro se assistance programs by observing the Chicago-Kent Advice Desk at the Richard J. Daley Center, and gathering information from litigants and courts in Cook and Lake Counties, Illinois; Delaware; Boulder County, Colorado; and Ventura County, California. Using data collected during the site visits, students identified the factors restricting access to justice and created solutions based on information structure, and finally constructed a communication document for their ideas to overcoming these factors. A second course in Systems Design and Structured Planning, taught by Charles Owen at the Institute of Design, began in January 2001, and consisted of 22 graduate-level students, including four law students from Chicago-Kent College of Law and 18 design students from the Institute of Design. In this second phase of the project, under the supervision of Professor Ron Staudt, Professor Charles Owen, and Edward B. Pedwell, the project team used the data gathered by the IPRO course and their own site visits to create the Access to Justice system. The full report on this project, Access to Justice: Meeting the Needs Of Self-Represented Litigants, was published in 2002 by Owen, Staudt, and Pedwell. The third and final phase of the project was the development of A2J Author, a software tool that enabled non-technical authors to create web-based interfaces for document assembly. The software was developed in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and launched in 2005. The CAJT continues to manage and promote A2J Author.

In 2003, an Illinois Joint Simplified Dissolution of Marriage Prototype (“JSDM Prototype” was created. The prototype was custom-designed software that provided a web-based interface for completion of the forms required for joint simplified dissolution of marriage in Illinois. In 2004, the Self-Help Web Center (SHWC), a help desk located on the 6th floor of the Circuit Court of Cook County at the Richard J. Daley Center, was created and launched. The SWHC serves as a starting point for pro se litigants and assists visitors in finding legal information and completing online legal forms.

Related collection(s): Records of the Center for Law and Computers, Records of the Illinois Technology Center

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