This Stewards of Change Institute (SOCI) project is part of a broader national initiative by the Pew Charitable Trusts to make the nation’s civil justice system more efficient, affordable and accessible. To achieve those aims, Pew and NIC are partnering to identify innovative and emerging technologies and practices that are already being used or tested in other domains – including Human Services, Healthcare, Public Safety and Information Technology – that can be adapted or adopted to improve the performance of civil courts.

Those other domains are ahead of the courts when it comes launching innovations, integrating multiple systems internally and externally, using data as a strategic asset, and implementing governance models. The courts therefore lack some key learning when modernizing systems or utilizing new technologies that can be gleaned from other sectors that have been steeped in this work for decades. Drawing on the expertise of relevant professionals, a review of existing research and new research produced by Pew, a diverse working group of subject matter experts assembled by SOCI and its National Interoperability Collaborative (NIC) will offer insights into considerations when launching new tools and applications in the courts; they will also help determine what changes to court procedures, policies and rules would bolster the implementation and effective use of advanced technologies and practices.

Once those are identified, Pew will conduct proof-of-concept testing around the country to determine which of them are most relevant and work best. The objective of this work is to implement tools and approaches that level the legal playing field for millions of people for whom the courts are too often an impediment – rather than an opportunity – for achieving justice.

Pew’s larger Civil Legal System Modernization Project seeks to make the courts more efficient overall by:

  • Increasing the availability and quality of free online legal tools that help everyone navigate complex problems and connect to resources.
  • Developing, promoting, and evaluating technologies that improve how people interact with state and local courts.
  • Conducting research to identify policies that can improve outcomes for people involved in the civil legal system.
  • Building partnerships with the private sector, policymakers, and other stakeholders to advance comprehensive improvement to the civil legal system.

SOCI will assist Pew by utilizing our large national network of subject matter experts to identify and convene virtual and (when possible) in-person convenings. The multidisciplinary working group’s findings and recommendations will help Pew and its partners in the civil justice community to identify the next generation of tools that hold the potential to improve broad accessibility to and the affordability of civil justice. We will also create a framework to assess the methodology needed to adopt emerging, promising and/or next-generation technology innovations and expedite their application in the civil legal system based the experiences of other domains. To accomplish these goals, SOCI will:

  • Facilitate engagement with stakeholders from the civil legal system and areas of intersection to include the Human Services, Healthcare, Public Safety and IT domains;
  • Ensure involvement by a diverse, skilled group of stakeholders who work with communities that intersect with the civil legal system to inform Pew’s ongoing work;
  • Help fulfill the civil legal system modernization project’s goal of assessing research, technologies and related changes to court procedures with the greatest potential for significant impact on improving access, affordability and efficiency of the civil legal system,
  • Elevate the awareness and importance of reforming the civil justice system in the eyes of the judicial, political and executive leadership across the health, human services, public health, public safety, education and IT domains, among others, and:
  • Share the progress and outcomes of Pew’s efforts through NIC’s Collaboration Hub to advance dissemination of the work, solicit feedback and build stakeholder support.