Talk Justice LSC podcast: A new tech fellowship for judicial innovation

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WASHINGTON–Jason Tashea, founding director of Georgetown Law’s new Judicial Innovation Fellowship (JIF), joins Talk Justice Co-host Molly McDonough on the latest episode of LSC's “Talk Justice” podcast.

Tashea explains the JIF program will place technologists and designers in state, local and tribal courts to improve the public’s access to justice. The fellowship takes inspiration from similar models in other branches of government, like the Presidential Innovation Fellowship and TechCongress.  

“It's about bringing expertise and skills into courts that usually courts are struggling to find either because states have cut budgets over the last [several] decades for courts or it's hard to compete with private industry salaries in the tech sector,” says Tashea.  

“We're looking to come in and fill that gap by basically playing a role as a matchmaker between courts that are trying to improve their transparency, equity and efficiency, and the technologists that want to be able to use their skills to help courts be able to level up on the work that they're already trying to accomplish,” he continues.   

To understand the existing problems that courts are facing, the JIF team conducted about 120 interviews with experts in the judicial and access to justice tech fields. Tashea explains that their goal is to focus on problems that stretch across jurisdictions, so that the fellows’ projects are widely valuable and replicable.  

“We don’t want anything to be so discrete or so bespoke that it lives or dies at a specific courthouse,” Tashea says.   

The program, launched at the end of November, has come together rapidly over the course of the last year and will begin holding informational webinars for interested court staff and potential fellows in the new year. Already, more than 100 court staff and 200 technologists interested in the fellowship have signed up to attend the webinars. Tashea says they are currently expecting to take on about seven fellows in the first cohort.  

The fellowship aims to not only help create new, replicable software, but also seed culture change within judiciaries. By making courts more dynamic and responsive to patrons’ needs, they believe they can increase public trust and confidence in the legal system.  

“Courts historically—as compared to the legislative and especially the executive branch—have never thought of themselves as a service agency and more and more they're being required to provide services,” Tashea says. “So not only is it about getting courts up to speed on technology, data and usability issues, but also helping them think [about] how they are a service provider within the confines of what the judiciary does.”  

Talk Justice episodes are available online and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular podcast apps. The podcast is sponsored by LSC’s Leaders Council.   

The next episode will explore the recent change to Alaska Bar Rule 43.5, which allows non-lawyers supervised by Alaska Legal Services Corporation to provide limited-scope legal assistance without violating unauthorized practice of law restrictions.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans.

The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

 

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