f/k/a . . . the archives

April 20, 2004

The Right to Information Literacy in the Justice System

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 10:11 pm

computer neg  In an important position paper released on April 14, 2004, entitled Supporting Information Literacy (draft), the Washington State Access to Justice Board asserts that “Access to justice requires that all people must be able to recognize when they have a legal information need and must be able to locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information.  This skill is called “Information Literacy.” 



  • The Paper declares that “The justice system has the dual responsibility of offering or otherwise assuring availability of both physical access (computer literacy) and intellectual access (information literacy) to legal information” and that the justice system must design programs to meet both responsibilities.”

This must-read 7-page document is loaded with seminal ideas.  Here are a few concepts that seem most important for assuring that all Americans have ready access to legal information and services — and that all members of the judicial and legal communities, and all information experts, form a partnership to achieve the goal of computer and informational literacy:


  1. “In order for everyone to have full access and use of the justice system, the justice system must further examine the nature of legal information that may be sought, the nature and demographics of the people wanting to access and use it, and not only provide it in the language read or spoken by the user, but in a manner relevant and understandable to the user. 
  2.  Efforts to create better web portals, sites, and tutorials of legal information are key to proactive legal information dissemination.  
  3. !key 2  When new legal information is created, it must be composed and disseminated using and accommodating the perspective of the first-time, inexperienced or unskilled user.

  4. The Justice System should foster the development of information literacy skills for everyone, especially to those who may be vulnerable or are on the wrong side of the digital divide.



  5. Partnerships must be formed with information providers such as librarians and legal clinics that assist individuals in sifting through materials, deciding which are most relevant and useful, and determining options and next steps. Public libraries and law libraries are especially important leaders in this area.


  6. Libraries and other information providers and legal service providers must continue to play a critical role in teaching computer and information literacy skills, and should be supported in their efforts to do so.

check red Finally, there is one recommendation the legal community should especially heed:  



“Because legal information is a very specific piece of the larger universe of government information, the legal community is obligated to identify a baseline necessary for understanding and using legal information.  A dialogue between past, current and potential legal consumers, individuals who seek or may seek legal information, and the justice system is needed to determine baseline legal information literacy skills that are necessary to create true legal literacy standards.” 


[Thanks to SelfHelpSupport.org for pointing to this Paper.]


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4 Comments

  1. Is the goal to provide access to legal services (i.e. lawyers) or is the goal to allow for more self represented parties in our courts. Greater access to legal education and information makes for better and more sophisticated clients, and I submit that is all to the good. But allowing greater access to our courts in the absense of attorney presents many problems. I practice in Maine where in the District Court vast numbers of parties are handling their own divorces, civil litigation and even criminal matters. It’s a disaster.

    Comment by Theodore G. Fletcher — April 20, 2004 @ 10:32 pm

  2. Is the goal to provide access to legal services (i.e. lawyers) or is the goal to allow for more self represented parties in our courts. Greater access to legal education and information makes for better and more sophisticated clients, and I submit that is all to the good. But allowing greater access to our courts in the absense of attorney presents many problems. I practice in Maine where in the District Court vast numbers of parties are handling their own divorces, civil litigation and even criminal matters. It’s a disaster.

    Comment by Theodore G. Fletcher — April 20, 2004 @ 10:32 pm

  3. Thank you for joining the discussion.  I believe that pro se litigants will not go away by ignoring them or making the judicial system unresponsive.  I subscribe to the perspective presented in the recently released New Hampshire report on self-represented litigants.  See http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2004/02/09#a744 and click on our Access/Self Help resources page for other materials.

    Comment by David Giacalone — April 20, 2004 @ 10:48 pm

  4. Thank you for joining the discussion.  I believe that pro se litigants will not go away by ignoring them or making the judicial system unresponsive.  I subscribe to the perspective presented in the recently released New Hampshire report on self-represented litigants.  See http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethicalesq/2004/02/09#a744 and click on our Access/Self Help resources page for other materials.

    Comment by David Giacalone — April 20, 2004 @ 10:48 pm

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