Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Structuring Court Communications with an App

Courts are different than many other businesses or services.  A rather obvious statement I know.  But a very important difference is that we have very formal court rules and legal statutes that create the steps, as well as boundaries, in how information is presented.  The rules also determine how the courts evaluate the completeness and truthfulness of the information presented.  Because of these structures and rules, I have been very cautious about the court's use of social media that as we know, have very few if any rules.

But communication is hard for many people.  This is especially true for communication that is structured to persuade or argue a point of view or law.  Therefore, an app that helps people, especially the self-represented litigants to accomplish this, is of great interest to me.


The second-place award in the recent Innovating Justice Challenge 2017 (#JustInnovate17) competition presented by HiiL (The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law) was the ( app.  The app creates a step-by-step approach for landlord-tenant cases for the New York City Housing Court.  Their website explains how the app can be used:

Step 1: Build Your Case – “Your case is your story. It provides a clear record of everything you have done to resolve your housing issues. If things get more serious, it can help avoid disputes or be used as a powerful tool in housing court. is a free web app for tenants which makes the process of building your case as easy as possible.”

Step 2: Gather Evidence and Take Action – “The more evidence you upload, the stronger your case will be. Start with the Take Action section to file 311 complaints, send notices to your landlord” (such as a Letter of Complaint), “and prepare for possible legal actions.” 

Step 3: Keep Records – “ is the easiest way to maintain a paper trail of communication with your landlord and photos of your apartment conditions. Add a Status Update at any time from the dashboard to provide an update on your situation.”

Step 4: Share Your Case History – “Everything that you do on the web app is saved in your Case History. You can print it out for Housing Court or share it with neighbors and advocates by using the Share Link.”

They further explain in their approach section:
“The core focus of our work is centered around the existing eco-system, outlining the points at which technology can facilitate crucial work already being done. We are here to augment, not replace these invaluable in-person resources - such as local organizing efforts and pro bono legal services - by streamlining how they track cases, communicate with tenants, and handle referrals. We are also invested in integrating municipal services, such as 311 complaints and housing inspections, as a way to provide more context-rich data and analytics to the city agencies responsible for addressing these issues.”
Congratulations to for this pioneering and innovative work.  The structured approach that they created can certainly be applied to other case type matters by all parts of the justice system.

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