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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

The Accessibility in an Online Court project looks to a future in which New Zealand will likely join the rapidly growing international trend of using online courts for civil disputes. In anticipation of this development, our two-year multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional study aims to lay an empirical foundation for how an online court might help litigants to explain their disputes accurately and clearly. Providing such support is a must if online courts are to deliver on the promise of access to justice, rather than being merely a cost saving initiative. This project uses mixed-methods to explore how litigants might engage with an online court.

Research Updates

This project is generously co-funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation’s Information Law and Policy project.

In the first phase of the project, we collected data from forms filed by litigants under the District Court Rules 2009. We are using this data to determine what communication strategies lawyers and laypeople adopt when explaining a claim.

In the second phase of this project, we are using laboratory testing to investigate the accuracy and clarity of laypeople and lawyers’ explanations of a dispute to an online court. We have interviewed of 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 [tinyurl.com/FutureCourtsResearch].

In the third phase of this project, the research team are exploring various technology solutions that might assist laypeople to clearly explain their disputes to an online court.

The research team presented at the International Online Dispute Resolution Forum in Auckland, and have published a paper in the International Journal on Online Dispute Resolution.

Project Outputs

Toy-Cronin, B., Irvine, B., Nichols, D., Cunningham, S. & Tkacukova, T. (2018). Testing the promise of access to justice through online courts. International Journal on Online Dispute Resolution, 5, 39-48.

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.