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Triage Protocols for Litigant Portals

Through an SJI Strategic Initiatives Grant, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) have developed case triage protocols for cases involving self-represented litigants, and developed a report offering best practices for the collection of litigant information. This innovative project will provide a basis for system redesign towards quickly and effectively serving litigants as they access the state courts (SJI-12-P-085).

The project team included representatives from the state courts, the civil legal aid community, and the private bar. These partnerships are critical, since successful triage requires coordination between the courts, litigants, and service providers. The project team met its goal of developing triaging processes to better serve litigants.

While the report begins with a brief historical framework for understanding triage in the legal context, particularly as it applies to the self-represented litigant, most of the focus in each legal issue section is on the application of stakeholder protocols, inclusive of: a) litigant choice protocol; b) court protocol; and, c) provider’s protocol. The following legal issue sections (pp. 6 – 20) are included:

  • Eviction Protocols;
  • Family Law Protocols;
  • Foreclosure Cases; and,
  • Credit Card Cases

Each section addresses common issues and barriers to triage, as well as the most frequently applied policies and available resources. Specific information tailored to each section addresses the perspective of the individual stakeholder and seeks to identify elements of the triage critical to all parties.

Applicable to multiple SJI Priority Investment Areas, this report offers stakeholders more detailed information and recommendations in the areas of self-represented litigation, state court reengineering, and the application of the protocols to improve access to limited English proficient (LEP) populations. While many jurisdictions already engage in some form of triage, the focus of this report is to:

  • Provide guidance on full integration of the court, litigant, and service providers as stakeholders;
  • Advance mechanisms for standardization of triage protocols; and,
  • Promote access to justice through the litigant portal, inclusive of self-help centers and websites

The project team is currently exploring the development of an implementation guide that will enable key stakeholders to implement these protocols through online portals. Topics for the planned implementation guide may include: resources required, sequential implementation tasks, governance, integration and information requirements, and how to best make litigants aware of the portal so they may access services.

The report, titled, Triage Protocols for Litigant Portals: A Coordinated Strategy Between Courts and Service Providers is available through the NCSC Library’s eCollection and via their online Self-Representation Resource Guide.