Inflection Point: Can Courts Use Technology to Spur Transformational Change or Will They Return to the Traditional Way of Doing Business?
Richard Susskind has famously argued that “court is a service, not a place.”1 We agree, and due to the most unimaginably horrible circumstance of the ongoing pandemic, courts have indeed largely stopped being physical places where people go. Courthouses closed, trials were delayed, and some courts even paused the filing of cases. Courts began to adapt, modifying rules and procedures and offering remote services to keep the state courts operational. These adaptations include online filing of pleadings for both lawyers and self-represented litigants, online clerk and self-help functions, remote hearings, remote payment of court fees and fines, remote bench trials, and in some instances remote jury trials.2 Courts have scrambled to answer the questions of how to provide services remotely that meet the needs of court users, keep everyone safe, and do not leave anyone out. Can technological solutions maintain and increase access to justice while the physical courthouse remains closed?
Zach Zarnow & Danielle Elyce Hirsch
Zach Zarnow is a Principal Court Management Consultant at the National Center for State Courts, focusing on increasing access to justice. He has worked with courts and their partners at the local and national level on civil legal system modernization and process simplification. Zach is co-creator and a co-host of Tiny Chats. Prior to joining NCSC he was Program Director at the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, where he led an overhaul of data collection, grant management procedures, and outcome measurements and designed and launched the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network, which he still manages. He is a graduate of Brandeis University and American University’s Washington College of Law.
Danielle Hirsch is the Interim Court Services Director at the National Center for State Courts, focusing on access to justice initiatives. She leads several large national access to justice projects for NCSC and serves as lead staff for the Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators’ Access and Fairness Committee, the Post-Pandemic Planning Technology Supergroup, and the Blueprint for Racial Justice’s Improving Diversity of the Bench, Bar and Workforce Working Group. In addition, Danielle is the co-creator and a co-host of Tiny Chats. Before joining NCSC, Danielle was the Assistant Director of Civil Justice Division of the Administrative Office of Illinois, where Danielle was responsible for leading and managing the judicial branch’s work to promote, facilitate, and enhance access to justice in Illinois. Danielle previously served as the Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice and the Director of Advocacy at The Chicago Bar Foundation. Among many highlights of her work, Danielle developed and managed an innovative new program, Illinois JusticeCorps, which places college and law students in courthouses to provide procedural assistance to people without lawyers.