A new e-filing project is revolutionizing Order of Protection petition filing in Bronx Family Court and demonstrating a path for future uses of legal technology. Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive
forms are the central component of an innovative e-filing project that has dramatically increased the court’s efficiency. The project, which launched in a pilot phase in late 2013, is a paradigmatic example of technology’s capacity to increase access to justice, streamline court processes, and create a better and friendlier litigant experience.
Traditionally, when unrepresented litigants seek an Order of Protection (OP) in Family Court, they are made to wait in a crowded room, and eventually meet with a clerk who manually records their information. This process can be long and exhaustive for litigants and drain court resources. Under the new pilot project, unrepresented litigants meet with approved advocates from nonprofit agencies in a smaller, more welcoming space in the courthouse where they can be comfortable explaining their situation. With the help of LawHelp Interactive’s technology, information in the petitions can be quickly verified and litigants can more easily receive the necessary paperwork. Clerks are able to process far more litigants, focusing on non-electronic filings and judges are able to issue more – and more accurate – orders. Pro Bono Net featured a look at the new petition process on our blog
Use of the LawHelp
Interactive forms has increased each quarter, and in the final quarter of 2013 the application generated almost 40 petitions a day.
For other family court matters, such as child support, unrepresented litigants can use one of a dozen court-provided computers to access online Do-It-Yourself forms that generate the necessary documents.
Under the tremendous leadership of Clerk of Court Mike Williams, the e-filing project is dramatically decreasing the time it takes to file OP petitions, more efficiently utilizing staff resources and time, and increasing the capacity of both legal aid providers and the Bronx Family Court.