JustAccess is a Toronto startup that, as of today, is seeking donations via the Centre for Social Innovation's crowdfunding site, Catalyst. The notion is that with a $10,000 infusion JustAccess can launch its own venture, which will:
support plaintiffs and defendants who can’t afford proper access to the justice system[,] share their stories with like minded people and request financial support towards their legal fees.
JustAccess is the work of a team of three people, Sam Saad, Chris Barry, and Kay Dyson Tam, none of whom is a lawyer or has legal training. Saad, the Managing Director is currently Co-Curricular Educator at UofT’s Hart House and has had a varied career, according to an exchange of emails I had with him, having been a fundraiser for Greenpeace and a UN Electoral Officer among other things.
At base, JustAccess would enable anyone to place details of their legal plight on the website and request donations toward legal expenses from readers. Saad says this fundraising will enable people to fund not only expenses associated with litigation but the cost of "consultation, retainers and all other legal fees." I asked about what sort of documentation was going to make up the "case profiles" that will be on the website. Saad replied:
Initially, our platform will be able to draw from any documents filed with the court to initiate proceedings. These include actions, notices, applications and motions, docket or case number if they’ve reached that stage, and links to public information about the case. As we grow, we’ll also include presiding judge and other facts and facets that create a shareable, well rounded story.
This leads me to suspect that as of now they lack a clear idea of how to authenticate an applicant's claim other than by material already generated through litigation.
One way JustAccess might be able to filter out truly vexatious or wholly fabricated claims arises from their plans about managing money raised via the website. According to Saad, the pleaders — "campaign creators" — will never touch the funds; JustAccess receives the money and "ensures it's spent on legal costs and nothing else." This, of course, would mean that a court, lawyer or paralegal would almost certainly be involved at the payout stage. Saad adds:
At first, all invoices — with private and confidential information redacted, of course — will be paid directly by our Accounts Department. As we grow, we’ll crowdsource this operation to partnering community-based legal aid organizations.
JustAccess will adopt what I'm told is the current practice with crowdfunding platforms and retain perhaps 5% of monies raised.
I was interested to see on their current, and largely place-holding, website that in addition to quoting Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin they quote as well Larry Tribe to establish a US "context," leading me to wonder whether they hope to do business in the US as well.