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Accessibility in an Online Court

Project Staff 

Principal Investigator Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin 

Associate Investigator Dr Bridget Irvine 

This project is being conducted in collaboration with Associate Investigators from other institutions: Associate Professors Dave Nichols and Sally Jo Cunningham from Computer Science at the University of Waikato and Dr Tatiana Tkacukova from Linguistics at Birmingham City University.

Project overview

This is a two-year multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional study that looks to a future where New Zealand will very likely join the rapidly growing international trend of introducing online courts for civil disputes. In anticipation of this likely development, this research aims to lay an empirical foundation for how an online court could support litigants to explain their disputes accurately and clearly. It is only if a system can achieve these goals that it can deliver the oft-touted promise of access to justice, rather than being merely a cost-saving initiative.

Online Keyboard

This study uses laboratory testing to investigate the accuracy and clarity of lay people’s explanations of a dispute to a court. It compares these findings to laboratory testing of the accuracy and clarity of the perceived “gold standard” mode of litigating a dispute, a lawyer’s explanation of a dispute to a court. It then uses these findings to suggest and test how an online court might support lay people to communicate their dispute to a decision maker.

Research Updates

We are pleased to announce the phase of the project looking at accessibility of an online court has been co-funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation's Information Law & Policy project. Work began on this phase of the project in January 2018.

We have completed the initial data collection of forms filed under the 2009 District Court Rules and we are beginning analysis on these

The second phase of the project is well underway. We have interviewed all of our lay participants, and are currently recruiting New Zealand lawyers to participate in our laboratory experiment.

If you are a New Zealand lawyer with 3 years post-qualification litigation experience, you can sign up to participate here.

The research team recently presented at the International Online Dispute Resolution Forum in Auckland.

Project Outputs

Toy-Cronin, B., Irvine, B., Nichols, D., & Cunningham, S. (2018). The promise of access to justice through an online court: Real or illusory? Panel presented to the International Online Dispute Resolution Forum, Auckland, New Zealand.

Toy-Cronin, B. (2017, Nov). Explaining a dispute in an online court – a new project. Civil Justice Watch Blog.