Colorado tests claims filing online

Colorado Legal Services site

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Low-income people are often shut out from the American legal system because of the cost of a lawyer, but a program run by Colorado Legal Services aims to help fix that by providing a way for users to file their own claims online.

The three-county pilot program, funded by a $165,000 federal grant, will give people the ability to file their claims in domestic violence, wrongful eviction and small-claims cases by using self-help touch screen terminals in courthouses, or online using computers in libraries or elsewhere.

The program is expected to be up and running by March 2004.

It's the first time such a system will be available for low-income users, said Eric Kleinman, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Legal Services Corp. (LSC), a federal agency that oversees legal aid for the poor and dispenses grants nationally for information technology-related programs, among other things, from funds Congress appropriated.

"This is not necessarily a precursor to a national low-income program, but that could be the result if we see that a state such as Colorado, which already is well ahead in [legal e-business] programs, can sustain something like this," Kleinman said.

The system is an extension of the Interactive Community Assistance Network (I-CAN), which LSC is helping set up in Orange County and other places in California, and now also in Colorado. I-CAN is a network of computer kiosks in courthouses and other public buildings where people can go to get advice on legal problems.

The Colorado online filing system guides people through a series of questions in English or Spanish, and automatically produces correctly worded forms in English ready for filing with the court.

The software that will provide the bridge between Colorado's court systems and the Web-based filing system is being donated by LexisNexis, Kleinman said.

Brian Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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