Each year, thousands of individuals facing domestic violence in New York seek to protect themselves from abuse with an order of protection. Last month, ALM’s Legaltech News recognized The New York State Unified Court System with an LTN innovation award for the Most Innovative Use of Technology in a Pro Bono Project for the Advocate Family Offense Petition Project. On Tuesday, Pro Bono Net and LegalTech News presented the award to the New York Courts.
The project reduces barriers for individuals seeking protection from abuse. By leveraging Pro Bono Net’s LawHelp Interactive online document assembly solution, the project allows advocates across the state to complete and electronically file petitions for litigants from any location, including from trusted domestic violence agencies and shelters. Since the program’s launch in 2014, more than 8,000 petitions have been filed using this program in 45 of NY’s 62 counties. The project streamlines the procedures for petitioners seeking protection orders, making the process less stressful for litigants. Pro Bono Net nominated the NY Courts for this honor, believing they should be applauded for implementing technology which makes the justice system more accessible for unrepresented litigants who are seeking critical support under the most difficult of circumstances.
“It’s been a real privilege for Pro Bono Net to be a part of that journey and evolution in the way the court has thought about providing services and equipping its staff and partnering organizations to be able to do the hard work that they’re charged with every day,” said Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director Mark O’Brien at the ceremony.
During her speech on Tuesday, the Honorable Fern A. Fisher acknowledged the collaborative effort it took to get to the end of this journey, saying that it took a lot of hands to make this happen. Collaborators included Pro Bono Net, the New York Court’s Access to Justice Program, NYC Family Court, the Court’s Division of Technology, and the Center for Court Innovation and domestic violence advocacy groups. At the end of her speech, Judge Fisher acknowledged that though this a huge feat, it’s not the end of the battle, and added that she hopes to see statistics on domestic violence reduced in her lifetime.
The project leverages LawHelp Interactive (LHI), a national online document assembly service that provides support to access to justice initiatives by legal services, court, pro bono, and law school programs in more than 40 states. LHI is operated by Pro Bono Net, in partnership with Ohio State Legal Services, and together they have received generous support for this work from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grants program, as well as from the HotDocs Corporation.