Is access to justice one-size-fits-all?

May 07, 2020 by Anonym

Is access to justice one-size-fits-all?

When you think about all the communication tools we have at our disposal: phone, email, text, facetime, face-to-face, online meeting, and so on, a question comes to mind.

Do you use one medium to communicate with everyone?

Personally, I use different mediums depending on the message that needs to be communicated and to whom I am trying to reach. For example, I learned a long time ago to text my kids if I want a response. Email is a great way to communicate information, but you have to be really careful because you can’t communicate with voice inflection or body language. Phone calls are OK, and face-to-face is the best. But we don’t always have that luxury, as we have all recently learned.

As we consider using technology to provide better access to justice, shouldn’t we use the same thought process? How do we provide as many people as possible with a method of access that comfortably reaches them?

Let’s explore some of the different methods we can employ to facilitate case resolution.

  • Online Self-Service – online payments, ability to set up programs like driver safety courses and deferred adjudication, schedule a court appearance, or get details on the status of a case
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Over the Phone – make payments or get details on the status of case
  • Email – get questions answered about options, schedule a court appearance, or get details on the status of a case
  • Person-to-Person Over the Phone – make payments, ability to setup programs like driver safety courses and deferred adjudication, schedule a court appearance, or get details on the status of a case
  • Face-to-Face - make payments, ability to setup programs like driver safety courses and deferred adjudication, schedule a court appearance, get details on the status of a case, or appear in court
  • Video Conferencing – appear in court, virtually

Looking at these different methods, you can see many of them serve the same purpose, so why bother with all of them?

Much like the styles of communication, different people are more comfortable with different mediums, and different case types can best be resolved with certain methods.

Shouldn’t our goal be to provide as many of these methods as possible?

When we think about access to justice, it really is not one-size-fits-all. Several years ago, a client made the statement, “We are providing online payments, what else do we need to do?” In today’s world, providing online payments is not enough. We need to provide the ability to sign up for programs, schedule a court appearance, set up payment plans, etc.

In addition to the traditional face-to-face access and person-to-person phone calls, is providing access online enough? We can add some access by using IVR and conversation via email, but again, does that use everything at our disposal? Are there technologies available to us that that could enhance these methods?

In my next blog, we’ll explore an innovative way courts are using technology to facilitate a multiparty conversation and negotiation.

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