March 11, 2011
Streamlining the court system: David Colarusso (’11) develops electronic case-management software
David Colarusso (’11) is planning to create a noncommercial, electronic case-management and docketing software system in the hopes of making the courts more accessible and enhancing—or, for some, simply creating—the resources that practitioners need to do their jobs.
He just needs the funding to do so.
Colarusso, who is also a software developer and former physics teacher, got the idea in the summer of 2010 while working with a legal aid organization on the Navajo Nation. It was there that his frustration with what he calls the “digital divide in the legal community”—an inequality to which he had first been exposed when he interned with the Navy JAG in 2009—transpired into an incentive.
“Neither the Military or the Navajo court systems had electronic filing, and as I researched the state of electronic case management systems, I found that many legal aid organizations couldn’t even afford rudimentary systems for screening out conflicts, tracking hours and managing active cases,” he said. “I knew that an electronic filing system existed for the federal courts [PACER] and I knew that large law firms made use of sophisticated case management systems. So I started to ask why those tools weren’t available to large swaths of the legal community.”
In addition to the fact that PACER’s pay wall prevents many legal aid organizations and boutique law firms from gaining access to public court documents, the system solely applies to federal courts. Many municipal and state courts do not have that kind of electronic docket-filing option.
“This seems like a market failure crying out for a solution,” said Colarusso.
The software that he began to conceive was an open-source—a term he paraphrases as “nearly free”—platform that would incorporate systems for both electronic filing and electronic case management so that “communication between the two can be built in from the start, further streamlining the workflow of attorneys, thereby increasing their efficiency and, consequently, their ability to provide services to those in need,” he said.
The software would thus also be classified as “open API,” a term that applies to sets of technologies that allow Web sites to interact with each other such as that seen on the new Facebook platform.
Moreover, Colarusso’s software would expedite behind-the-scenes steps in the filing process, thereby rationalizing the “entire life cycle” of legal materials.
“I’m currently a member of BU’s Criminal Law Clinic, working in the Boston Municipal Court defending indigent clients, and it’s the third court system I’ve worked in not to have electronic filing, and our case management system is pretty much a set of spreadsheets,” Colarusso noted.
And that’s why Colarusso has pitched WeJudicate, an open source-open API project that hopes to launch by the end of this year.
But in order for Colarusso to make WeJudicate a reality, he needs the financial backup to do so. Through an online all-or-nothing funding venue called Kickstarter, Colarusso—along with his teammate Josh Estelle and with the infrastructural leverage of their small software development firm Anaces, Inc.—is asking that supporters each pledge $25 (or any sum of money for that matter) towards his goal of $23,000.
“Considering that such a build would probably cost $100,000-plus as a contact build, it ends up being a pretty good deal,” he said. “Pledge $25 now, get a free case management system next year.”
In addition to WeJudicate, Colarusso has maintained an active presence on the World Wide Web. He is the founder of communityCOUNTS, an online tool for discussion around an assortment of Web content. He was also a co-creator and the lead developer behind techPresident's presidential candidate forum, 10questions.com, during the '08 presidential election.