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美国需要民事司法改革,技术革新是第一步

美国需要民事司法改革,技术革新是第一步

PATRICK FORREST,BINH DANG 2022-02-18
法院系统不愿推动技术创新,无力聘请律师的诉讼当事人只能独自面对这个由律师设计且只有律师才玩得转的司法体系。

图片来源:GORODENKOFF/GETTY IMAGES

刑事司法改革在美国一直是一个备受关注的议题。多年以来,美国各州无论红蓝都在积极推进刑法和刑事诉讼制度改革,即便是在多事之秋的2021年也不例外。但是,美国的民事司法体系也同样充满不公之处,而且法院每年审理的民事案件的数量更是远非刑事案件可比。

要想彻底纠正司法体系的种种弊端,必然需要旷日持久的全面改革。但改革的第一步却是相对简单的:政策制定者应该给某些创新技术开绿灯,好让它们帮助人们更好地捍卫自身权利。

司法改革的必要性和迫切性从一项统计数据就能看出——美国每年有70%的诉讼当事人是亲自应诉的,也就是说,每年都有几百万美国人打着没有代理人的官司。在美国,穷人可以申请免费的法律援助,富人请得起付费的律师,不过绝大多数人却处于一种尴尬中间态,他们需要独自面对这个由律师设计且只有律师才玩得转的司法体系。虽然法院也尝试过推出一些自助式的法律服务技术,但它们要么不好用,要么用不好。这其实也是一种危险的不公平,缺乏法律知识的普通人,很有可能因为一场官司而输掉房子,失去医保,丢掉饭碗,甚至失去再见到亲人的机会。

想想美国法庭上每天都在上演哪些案件吧:一个“背靠背”部署的退伍老兵因为拖欠账单被告上法庭,他想向法官解释自己为什么没法及时付账单,但却怎么也说服不了法官。一个外国移民操着一口稀烂的英语,试图告诉法官,他的房东之所以轰他出去,完全是由于种族歧视。一个单亲妈妈想向法庭申请宝宝的抚养权,但她前夫却聘请了一整个法律团队跟她斗……实际上在很多时候,这些老兵、移民和单亲妈妈甚至根本不会出现在法庭上,因为法律程序的复杂性足以“劝退”很多试图维权的人。但是如果他们知道自己有哪些权利,知道怎么走法律流程、怎么说服法官,他们说不定就能保住自己的信用、房子和宝宝。

解决这些问题的终极方案,是一场全面的民事司法改革。这是各州立法机构必须推动的事,就像近十几年来刑事司法改革领域所取得的进展一样。不过改革是需要时间来探索、实施和开花结果的。而在短期内,能帮助普通人打官司的最有效的工具,仍然是科技手段。

现行的民事司法体系早已远远落后于当前的技术革命。大多数的法院只有一个官方网站,诉讼当事人只能在上面下载一些表格,了解一些诉讼流程或者其他一些零零碎碎的信息。对于自己打官司的当事人来说,上这些网站就好比刚买了新车但还没背过交规,硬着头皮开的必然后果就是撞南墙。诉讼当事人真正需要的,是深入了解自己的法律权利,有哪些方法可以为自己辩护,而这些却是科技手段可以提供的。如今的数字化平台已经可以引导人们走好民事司法体系的每一步,确保他们拥有捍卫自身权利所需的知识。

那么,是哪些因素阻碍了这些技术创新呢?首先,大多数州都没有提供推动民事司法体系现代化所需的资金,还有很多州历来对司法体系改革怀有敌意。比如佛罗里达州最近封禁了一款APP,这款APP的作用是可以让收到超速罚单的驾驶员联系上律师。由于当权者缺乏开放心态,导致整整一代创新者的努力被扼杀了,他们中的很多人是有使命感的,是以解决司法体系中的问题为己任的。问题是,虽然他们有这种意愿,但改革的大门却被关上了。

好在这种情况也在发生改变。有些州已经认识到,科技可以为寻求正义的普通人带来巨大的好处。比如犹他州的高级法院建立了一个“法律沙盒”,以试验包括科技手段在内的各种法律服务。还有几个州也在建立自己的“沙盒”。

各州的政策制定者,包括立法者和法官,都应该确保更多的州效仿这种做法。科技可以让更多人获得经济承受范围内的法律服务。就像TurboTax可以让人自行报税、Legalzoom可以让人自行创建法律文书一样,有了创新的科技平台的加持,普通人就算不请律师,也有希望打赢官司。人们对这种平台的需求是迫切的,至少70%的民事诉讼当事人都能从这种技术中受益。

从2010年代中期开始,首席大法官会议和州法院行政官会议就在呼吁各州开展民事司法改革。而加大创新技术的推广力度,则是改革所必需的第一步。

虽然技术革新并不能解决民事司法体系里的多数弊病——这只有全面改革才能做得到,但它却能让这个长期缺乏创新的领域产生立竿见影的变化。人们打官司并不是为了听天由命,打官司求的是一个战斗的机会,来拼死保卫他们的权利。(财富中文网)

本文作者Patrick Forrest是法律服务公司Quest for Justice的联合创始人、首席策略官,另一作者Binh Dang是该公司总裁。

译者:朴成奎

刑事司法改革在美国一直是一个备受关注的议题。多年以来,美国各州无论红蓝都在积极推进刑法和刑事诉讼制度改革,即便是在多事之秋的2021年也不例外。但是,美国的民事司法体系也同样充满不公之处,而且法院每年审理的民事案件的数量更是远非刑事案件可比。

要想彻底纠正司法体系的种种弊端,必然需要旷日持久的全面改革。但改革的第一步却是相对简单的:政策制定者应该给某些创新技术开绿灯,好让它们帮助人们更好地捍卫自身权利。

司法改革的必要性和迫切性从一项统计数据就能看出——美国每年有70%的诉讼当事人是亲自应诉的,也就是说,每年都有几百万美国人打着没有代理人的官司。在美国,穷人可以申请免费的法律援助,富人请得起付费的律师,不过绝大多数人却处于一种尴尬中间态,他们需要独自面对这个由律师设计且只有律师才玩得转的司法体系。虽然法院也尝试过推出一些自助式的法律服务技术,但它们要么不好用,要么用不好。这其实也是一种危险的不公平,缺乏法律知识的普通人,很有可能因为一场官司而输掉房子,失去医保,丢掉饭碗,甚至失去再见到亲人的机会。

想想美国法庭上每天都在上演哪些案件吧:一个“背靠背”部署的退伍老兵因为拖欠账单被告上法庭,他想向法官解释自己为什么没法及时付账单,但却怎么也说服不了法官。一个外国移民操着一口稀烂的英语,试图告诉法官,他的房东之所以轰他出去,完全是由于种族歧视。一个单亲妈妈想向法庭申请宝宝的抚养权,但她前夫却聘请了一整个法律团队跟她斗……实际上在很多时候,这些老兵、移民和单亲妈妈甚至根本不会出现在法庭上,因为法律程序的复杂性足以“劝退”很多试图维权的人。但是如果他们知道自己有哪些权利,知道怎么走法律流程、怎么说服法官,他们说不定就能保住自己的信用、房子和宝宝。

解决这些问题的终极方案,是一场全面的民事司法改革。这是各州立法机构必须推动的事,就像近十几年来刑事司法改革领域所取得的进展一样。不过改革是需要时间来探索、实施和开花结果的。而在短期内,能帮助普通人打官司的最有效的工具,仍然是科技手段。

现行的民事司法体系早已远远落后于当前的技术革命。大多数的法院只有一个官方网站,诉讼当事人只能在上面下载一些表格,了解一些诉讼流程或者其他一些零零碎碎的信息。对于自己打官司的当事人来说,上这些网站就好比刚买了新车但还没背过交规,硬着头皮开的必然后果就是撞南墙。诉讼当事人真正需要的,是深入了解自己的法律权利,有哪些方法可以为自己辩护,而这些却是科技手段可以提供的。如今的数字化平台已经可以引导人们走好民事司法体系的每一步,确保他们拥有捍卫自身权利所需的知识。

那么,是哪些因素阻碍了这些技术创新呢?首先,大多数州都没有提供推动民事司法体系现代化所需的资金,还有很多州历来对司法体系改革怀有敌意。比如佛罗里达州最近封禁了一款APP,这款APP的作用是可以让收到超速罚单的驾驶员联系上律师。由于当权者缺乏开放心态,导致整整一代创新者的努力被扼杀了,他们中的很多人是有使命感的,是以解决司法体系中的问题为己任的。问题是,虽然他们有这种意愿,但改革的大门却被关上了。

好在这种情况也在发生改变。有些州已经认识到,科技可以为寻求正义的普通人带来巨大的好处。比如犹他州的高级法院建立了一个“法律沙盒”,以试验包括科技手段在内的各种法律服务。还有几个州也在建立自己的“沙盒”。

各州的政策制定者,包括立法者和法官,都应该确保更多的州效仿这种做法。科技可以让更多人获得经济承受范围内的法律服务。就像TurboTax可以让人自行报税、Legalzoom可以让人自行创建法律文书一样,有了创新的科技平台的加持,普通人就算不请律师,也有希望打赢官司。人们对这种平台的需求是迫切的,至少70%的民事诉讼当事人都能从这种技术中受益。

从2010年代中期开始,首席大法官会议和州法院行政官会议就在呼吁各州开展民事司法改革。而加大创新技术的推广力度,则是改革所必需的第一步。

虽然技术革新并不能解决民事司法体系里的多数弊病——这只有全面改革才能做得到,但它却能让这个长期缺乏创新的领域产生立竿见影的变化。人们打官司并不是为了听天由命,打官司求的是一个战斗的机会,来拼死保卫他们的权利。(财富中文网)

本文作者Patrick Forrest是法律服务公司Quest for Justice的联合创始人、首席策略官,另一作者Binh Dang是该公司总裁。

译者:朴成奎

Criminal justice reform gets all the attention. For years, red and blue states alike have enacted sweeping reforms to criminal laws and sentencing, and 2021 was no exception. Yet the civil justice system is also rife with injustice, and it hears far more cases than criminal courts.

Ending this crisis is a long-term effort requiring comprehensive reform, but the first step is relatively simple: Policymakers should greenlight innovative technologies that will help people better defend their rights.

The need for reform is made clear by a single statistic: A stunning 70% of litigants–millions of people every year–are self-represented. The truly poor can get free lawyers through legal aid, while the rich can easily afford an attorney. The overwhelming majority of people are stuck in the middle. They’re left alone to navigate a legal system designed by lawyers and for lawyers. While courts have tried to offer self-help technology, it’s woefully inaccessible or incomplete. That’s injustice–plain and simple–because the lack of support leaves millions of people at a high risk of losing their home, their health care, their paycheck, their freedom to see loved ones, and more.

Consider the kinds of cases that play out in courtrooms every day. A veteran who was on back-to-back deployments tries to persuade a judge why he needs more time to pay his bills but can’t. An immigrant speaking broken English struggling to explain that his landlord wants to evict him for racist reasons. A single mother pleads for custody of her infant daughter, but her ex-husband’s legal team runs circles around her. In many cases, the veteran, immigrant, and mother don’t even show up to court because the legal process is too complicated. They may have kept their credit, their apartment, or their baby if they had understood their rights, the legal procedures, and how to persuade a judge.

The solution to this widespread problem is comprehensive civil justice reform. That’s something state lawmakers must drive, just as they have done for more than a decade with criminal justice reform. Worthwhile reforms will take some time to identify, implement, and take effect. In the short run, technology can help people better represent themselves.

To date, the civil justice system has been left behind by the technology revolution. Most courts only offer self-represented litigants access to a public website containing forms, logistical instructions, and fragmented information. For self-represented litigants, these websites are like getting your first car but not being taught the rules of the road–a fast track to a crash. Self-represented litigants need a deeper understanding of their legal rights and the ways to defend them, which technology can provide. Digital platforms can guide people through every stage of the civil justice system, ensuring they have the knowledge needed to defend their rights.

What’s stopping such technological innovation? Most states haven’t provided funding to modernize their civil justice systems. Many others have historically been hostile to change. For example, Florida recently banned an app that connects drivers who receive speeding tickets with lawyers. The lack of openness has stifled an entire generation of tech innovators, huge numbers of whom are mission-driven and committed to tackling problems in the justice system. The will is there, but the door has been shut.

Fortunately, that’s starting to change. Some states now recognize that technology can be a massive boon to regular people seeking justice. Utah’s Supreme Court has created a “legal sandbox” for experimentation in legal services, including through technology. Others are setting up sandboxes of their own.

Policymakers–including lawmakers and judges–should ensure that more states follow suit. Technology can transform people’s access to affordable legal support at scale. Just as TurboTax has enabled people to file their own taxes and Legalzoom has enabled them to create legal documents on their own, technology could empower self-represented litigants to succeed on their own in court. That’s an urgent need, and something seven out of 10 people who go to civil court would benefit from.

The Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators have called for civil justice reform since the mid-2010s. Expanding access to innovative technology is a necessary first step.

While it cannot solve most (or even many) of the problems that bedevil the civil justice system, which only comprehensive reform can do, technology can still make an immediate impact in an area that has seen hardly any innovation to date. Society doesn’t just owe people their day in court. It owes them a fighting chance to protect their rights.

Patrick Forrest is co-founder and chief strategy officer and Binh Dang is president of Quest for Justice, which provides civil litigation assistance.

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