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Publish Date: 10/3/2005

Cindy Taylor, left, and Claire Hunter, center, receive training from Molly French on the I-CAN Colorado Project, or Interactive Computer Assistance Network, which allows Web-based assistance for people to obtain and file their own civil cases. The self-help Kiosk will open to the public today in the Boulder County Clerk’s office at the Boulder Justice Center. Times-Call/Erin McCracken

Court kiosk will help litigants file cases

Not everyone who goes to court needs a lawyer, but sometimes those without lawyers need a little help.

Starting today, the Boulder County Justice Center and the Centennial Building of the Weld County Combined Courts will feature a computer kiosk to guide litigants through the process of filing certain court documents. Another kiosk is scheduled to open in Adams County in November.

The system also will be available on the Internet for those who will be filing claims in Boulder, Weld or Adams counties.

The program, known as I-CAN, or Interactive Community Assistance Network, is being tested in the three counties for up to a year, said Molly French, technology advocate for Colorado Legal Services.

“The first three months and how successful it is will determine a lot,” French said.

Anyone who needs to file a protective order in a domestic violence case, begin or respond to a small-claims court lawsuit, or defend against an eviction notice can fill out the necessary forms through the system.

Although the forms themselves have been available on the state court’s Web site, I-CAN asks the user questions to ensure that the proper forms are filled out correctly. For example, if a user wants to sue for more than $7,500, I-CAN will stop the process and direct the user to the court clerk’s office.

It also changes the questions as needed, depending on the answers the user provides.

A video guide also is available, both on the kiosks and on the Internet, to help users through the process. The video can be turned off, as well, since it slows down the computer. The kiosks also feature touch screens for easy use.

“It pretty much covers everything in all of the modules,” French said. Legal terms are highlighted so users can click on them for a definition, she noted.

When the process is complete, I-CAN prints out all the forms that need to be filed, then offers to print copies for the user’s personal records. The user still has to file the claim with the court clerk’s office, but French said she hopes electronic filing will be possible in the future.

“This is going to be an incredible source of help,” said Cynthia Taylor, director of the consumer division for the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office. Her office assists many people as they fill out the forms, so the video guide will be invaluable, she said.

“I’m hopeful it will help an overburdened court,” Taylor said, explaining that she expects it will free up court clerks who will be able to help more people.

Cathi Walker, who supervises the Weld County court clerk’s office, pointed out that I-CAN also will spare clerks and judges from having to read litigants’ handwriting.

“What we’re hoping is that the judges will be able to read (the claims),” Walker said.

She also hopes I-CAN will speed up the process, as it can take an hour or more to complete the paperwork for a restraining order, Walker said.

The kiosks cost $10,000 each, and the program is financed through a Legal Services Corp. technology grant, French said. I-CAN began in Orange County, Calif., in 2000.

Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226, or by e-mail at vcamron@times-call.com.

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