Practitioner-in-residence Colarusso, Director of Suffolk University’s Legal Innovation and Technology (LIT) Lab, volunteered some time to catch the BBA up on the new and exciting project the lab is working on in conjunction with the ATJC’s COVID-19 Task Force–one that has the potential to change the way we access the courts entirely.
What is the document assembly line project?
Simply put, Colarusso describes it as an open source coding project that creates mobile friendly court forms that can be accessed on any internet device and sent directly to the court. Colarusso, together with Quinten Steenhuis, a clinical fellow in the LIT Lab, as well as a myriad of volunteers, have created a novel digital platform to change the way pro se litigants and advocates alike access the courts. This tightly knit group of volunteers has used an assembly line method (each person completing one piece of the document and then passing it to the next volunteer in the chain) to create mobile friendly court forms that can be accessed and filled out on any internet device–including the ability to sign the document. The forms themselves will be available in multiple languages and work by guiding pro se litigants through plain language interviews so pro se litigants, and/or the advocates assisting them, can easily complete necessary court forms from any computer or mobile device. The completed forms can then be sent directly to the courts for filing. No printing, no physical signing, and no clerk’s windows.
Learn more by watching Colarusso explain the project in this short video.
How did the project come about?
The project arose from Chief Justice Gants’s call for novel ideas, and the willingness of the Trial Court to consider outside-the-box thinking to preserve access to the courts during the pandemic. The Lab and Steenhuis built upon his previous experience creating GBLS’ MADE tool as a model for how this project could function. Colarusso mobilized twitter and social media to band together over a hundred volunteers across ten time zones, and five continents to coalesce around an idea that has the ability to knock down barriers to justice. By making the code behind this novel platform open source, volunteers can hope to see this platform utilized in their own jurisdictions–with Massachusetts leading the way. This technology allows self represented litigants who may not have printers, scanners, or fax machines, available to most practitioners, to continue to file their necessary legal documents while courts remain closed.
How can people get involved?
While this project is well on its way, it could still benefit from volunteers–especially subject matter experts like BBA members. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering please click here, or sign up through slack. You do not need to have a software or technology background, there is a job for everyone!