In the United States and around the world, people’s lives are compromised when they do not understand their rights, cannot assert their rights, cannot rely on a neutral and unbiased decision-maker, cannot count on the fair rule of law and cannot enforce the law. Access to justice can often be the difference, enabling people to: keep a family together, save their homes, secure their physical safety, obtain sufficient food, and maintain their freedom. The National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School is the national academically-affiliated nonprofit organization working to accomplish change that that helps people obtain access to justice.
- The Justice Index – NCAJ’s flagship initiative, the Justice Index, is an on-line resource at justiceindex.org that uses data and indicators to promote access to justice by ranking state justice systems on their adoption of best policies for civil legal aid, language access, disability access, and people without lawyers. NCAJ’s Justice Index Team of 100 volunteers from 13 institutions (six law firms, four corporations and three law schools) received the American Bar Association’s national Pro Bono Publico Award for the pro bono service that helped bring the Justice Index to life. See NCAJ’s overview here and the ABA’s video here.
- Research – NCAJ carries out research on access to justice, and also serves as a liaison between social scientists, legal aid attorneys, court officials and other stakeholders. We convened an expert working group to recommend “national access to justice indicators” in cooperation with the US government’s initiative to implement Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda, which calls on all countries) to use data and indicators to expand access to justice. We are drafting a guide for civil legal aid programs on best practices for using data to track outcomes.
- New Models – We help create responsible new models to assure access to justice, including civil right to counsel laws, new roles for “non-lawyer advocates”, new approaches for judges, students, clerks, and new uses for technology.
- Language Access – We work through our Justice Index, www.justiceindex.org and in reports to support best policies for providing interpreting and translating services in state justice systems.
- Law Schools – We work to make access to justice a core element of legal education, including by expanding opportunities for pro bono service by students and professors. We co-chair the Access to Justice Initiative at Fordham Law School.
- On August 12, 2017, the 100 volunteers comprising NCAJ’s Justice Index Team from six law firms (Kirkland, Morgan, O’Melveny, Patterson, Simpson, Skadden), four corporations (Deloitte, GE, Pfizer, UBS) and three law schools (Fordham University, Yeshiva/ Cardozo, and the University of Pennsylvania) received the American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award. See the ABA profile and ABA video honoring the team.
- On December 1, 2016, NCAJ in partnership with the Columbia Human Rights Institute posted Recommended Access to Justice Indicators for Implementation of Goal 16 of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in the United States, based on a Consultation co-coordinated by NCAJ and CHRI that brought together experts on access to justice with officials in federal agencies comprising the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (“WH-LAIR”).
- On October 19, 2016, NCAJ hosted a videotaped program “Where the Civil and Criminal Justice Systems Meet” as part of its move to Fordham Law School and the launch of Fordham’s school-wide Access to Justice Initiative.
- Civil access to justice, view the interview with NCAJ’s Executive Director, David Udell, on Bob Herbert’s Op-Ed.TV!
- Check out NCAJ’s new Justice Index! It’s in the news and in this US Dept of Justice report! with more news coverage here.
We hope you will learn more about NCAJ’s work to assure that all people are able to protect their rights in our American justice system. For a two page printable introduction to NCAJ, click here.