“Information is the currency of democracy,” and the lifeblood of our legal system. This 4th of July, UniCourt recognizes the importance of access to information to the freedom and independence of our country and our citizens. We’re committed to ensuring that access to legal information is no longer a barrier to entry.
The Currency of Law
In any democracy, you cannot be fully free and independent without having access to the legal information impacting your livelihood. Understanding how the law applies to the facts in your case is a crucial starting point for both consumers and businesses. With advances in legal technology and the growth of online legal databases, there are now several readily available resources providing free access to the laws, regulations, and court cases shaping the legal system.
At the core of the collective mission statements of many free legal information resources like Justia, the Legal Information Institute, and CourtListener, is the desire to make interacting with the legal system easier, more accessible and user friendly. More importantly, these resources are aiming to create informed citizens capable of managing their own legal problems and understanding the laws governing their lives.
An informed citizenry is the bedrock of our democracy, as it is participatory in nature and predicated on the need for knowledgeable and independent individuals to raise their hands and make their voices heard. Beyond the ballot box, the most effective way to make your voice heard and assert your constitutional rights is jumping into the fray of the legislative and judicial process. Whether you are filing for a divorce or a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking access to government records, knowing the law is the first step, and you don’t have to take it alone.
Moving Beyond the Law
Beyond knowing the law, you need to be able to effectively interact with the legal system and apply your knowledge in the courtroom – this is where UniCourt can step in to help. After you or your attorney files a complaint in your case or responds to allegations against you, the most important part of your legal journey begins with figuring out how you can stay in the know with what’s happening in your case.
Let’s say you want to file a FOIA request. You found out everything there is to know about filing your FOIA request from the Legal Information Institute, then you file your request with the appropriate Federal agency, but they deny your request and don’t respond to your appeal of the decision. When you do a little more digging, you find out that you can file a lawsuit to have your request reviewed in the courts. You could then find a sample complaint in UniCourt’s Crowdsourced Library™ and file your lawsuit in the closest U.S. District Court. Now what? How do you find out more about your case, and how do you make sure you are using the best arguments and motions in your case to obtain the information you need?
To move well-beyond just knowing the law, UniCourt can show you how others have sued the government using FOIA lawsuits. Multiple FOIA requests are filed everyday, and with just a basic UniCourt account that costs only a fraction of the applicable federal filing fees, you can learn exactly how big companies like BuzzFeed go after government records. For a couple more dollars, you can also download several documents filed by BuzzFeed’s lawyers in their cases to use some of the best motions and briefs money can buy to get the information you seek. Even more importantly than finding the best court documents used by big companies, UniCourt also helps you track everything that happens in your case just like if you had an army of lawyers constantly scouring court databases.
With automatic updates of what moves are being made in your case, and a treasure trove of helpful documents at your disposal, access to information can no longer act as a barrier to entry to the legal system.
The Push and Pull for Public Information
In recognizing the significance of independence and freedom today, it is also crucial to recognize that many of the freedoms U.S. citizens have and enjoy would not be possible without our founding fathers and countless civil rights advocates and legal pioneers. Access to information, and really access to government information, involves a continual push and pull between opposing forces.
While the U.S. government does provide systematic ways of requesting and obtaining information, the government does not often make certain types of records public without some form of prompting. UniCourt is proud to be a part of a larger, active legal community pushing for improved access to information and justice in the legal system, and we are excited to continue our drive to make government records public records.
Happy 4th of July from the UniCourt team!