Civil justice reform in the United States has failed to address the problems that self-represented litigants experience in their efforts to obtain access to the justice system. Although the great majority of cases filed by self-represented litigants are factually and legally uncomplicated, many of these litigants struggle to navigate through a procedurally complex court system. To address this major shortcoming, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) organized a partnership with IIT’s Institute of Design and Chicago-Kent College of Law to examine court processes and recommend modifications to eliminate or reduce procedural barriers to access for self-represented litigants.

Final Results

The project objectives were to identify major barriers self-represented litigants encounter; redesign court processes and systems to remove these barriers and provide better access to the justice system; and translate these new concepts into an Internet-based software prototype. The resulting system proposed solutions in five integrated areas: diagnosing the problem, communicating objectives with the court or the opposing party, planning and supporting dispute resolution or trial, create partnerships with third-party organizations, and providing feedback to the court to help it improve its services. The last solution area ties back into the first, creating a closed loop.

PDF report: access_to_justice_report

More information, including prototypes and trial implementations: