Future Law

Access to Justice Commission Launches Two Grant Initiatives Aimed at Supporting Self-Represented Litigants

Two grants with the goal of improving court processes for self-represented litigants (SRLs) are now open for applications. The grants are available through the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice (ATJ Commission) and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.

Applications for both grants are open through June 21, 2022.

Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) program

The first of the two available grants will fund the development of an ODR program, which uses technology to facilitate disputes for self-represented litigants (SRLs). These disputes may include consumer, traffic, marital, or familial type relationships, and small claims.

ODR programs allow SRLs to navigate their dispute completely remotely on their own time, making the court process less daunting for those not comfortable in a courthouse. These conditions have been shown to lead to increased participation in civil cases and improved access to justice, according to National Center for State Courts (NCSC) data.

SRLs are accessing court resources online more frequently. According to the most recent Illinois Supreme Court annual report, 66,000 civil cases were filed by SRLs in 2020.

In 2021, the ATJ Commission awarded grants to the First Judicial Circuit in Jackson County, the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Champaign County, and the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in Will County.

Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator (Coordinator) program

The goal of this project is to create, train, and support a statewide Court Navigator Network (Network) of clerks and court staff. According to the ATJ Commission, these networks will link courthouses throughout the state to share ideas and develop new resources and programs specifically geared toward SRLs.

The program was established in 2017 under the ATJ Commission Strategic Plan and has served nearly 250,000 court users in its first five years.

Recipients of the grant will be required to:

  • Create, modify, evaluate, and update self-help resources for the courthouse.
  • Solicit ongoing feedback from court users about the effectiveness of the resources and programs.
  • Track individuals served by the Coordinator and submit updates to the AOIC about the data, activities, and grant expenditures.
  • Identify new program needs.
  • Develop new partnerships with community organizations.

In 2021, 16 jurisdictions received the grant for one or multiple Coordinator projects.

For questions about applying for these grants, please contact Jill Roberts, Deputy Director, ATJ Division, at (312) 793-2305 or jroberts@illinoiscourts.gov.

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