The civil justice system is designed by lawyers and for lawyers, which means trying to navigate complex court processes without legal representation can be almost impossible. But thousands of people facing life-changing challenges like wrongful eviction or crushing debt cannot afford an attorney, so representing themselves is their only option.
Right now, people are continually thrown into the civil justice system on their own and unaware of their fundamental rights. The impact of this can be devastating – sending families spiraling into poverty and upheaval, further disenfranchising our most vulnerable communities, and perpetuating systemic inequities.
In 2019, we issued a report detailing how technology could help solve this crisis. Specifically, we recommended that the Massachusetts Trial Court create a centralized, online legal help center. But because the courts’ IT systems are so out-of-date, technology-based solutions remain out of reach.
H.1520, the Judiciary IT Bond bill (An Act to Improve and Modernize the Information Technology Systems and Capacities of the Judiciary), would update the Massachusetts Trial Court’s severely outdated IT structure and fund online innovations that can help people successfully advocate for themselves and protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families.
This is an opportunity for Massachusetts to invest in access to justice at an unprecedented level. 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 an attorney or not.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized families and heightened legal needs, this bill is more urgent than ever.
An important deadline is fast approaching: on February 2nd, the legislature will decide which bills from this legislative session move forward and which will not. Please take this one-minute action TODAY and urge your legislators to support H.1520 and ensure the Judiciary Committee issues a favorable report for this bill.
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