On November 4, DOJ’s Senior Counsel for Access to Justice Karen Lash issued a challenge to advocates and academics gathered at the University of Colorado Law School: report to me in 100 days about what you have done to advance access to the justice system. Here is how the National Center for Access to Justice responded:
1. In partnership with New York Unified Court System, the Center jointly submitted a funding concept paper titled Representation Counts to the State Justice Institute: The Center and the Court System have outlined a collaborative initiative “to define and identify self-represented litigants.” If funded, the partners would work together to “systematically review the status of unrepresented litigants in the courts, research the approaches to this issue used by other states and use that information to improve the delivery of services in New York.”
2. Center helped to establish a law student pro bono project to aid 9/11 Victims: The Center partnered with the Access to Justice Initiative of the U.S. Department of Justice and with the Special Administrator of the recently re-opened 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund to help create a law student pro bono program that will rely on students to help 9/11 victims file their applications for awards from the fund.
3. Center authored Turner v. Rogers and the Right of Meaningful Access to the Courts for inclusion by the Denver University Law Review in the Rothgerber Conference’s Collected Papers: This article, by Laura Abel, describes challenges facing trial courts as they consider factors, after Turner v. Rogers, that can determine the level and nature of assistance necessary to assure meaningful access to the courts. The draft is available here.
4. Center celebrated ABA’s adoption of the pathbreaking Standards for Language Access in Courts: In its news blog, the Center describes the importance of the ABA’s new language access Standards, the expectations the Standards establish for state courts, and the opportunities for communities to establish best practices to effectuate the Standards.
5. Center presented at Rebellious Lawyering Conference: The Center spoke on a panel at Yale Law School’s 18th annual Rebellious Lawyering Conference, offering students a list of actions potentially responsive to the current paradox in which we see many recent law graduates unable to find jobs in the public interest sector while many low and moderate income litigants are unable to find lawyers.
6. Center planned Equal Justice Conference panel on performance measurement and access to justice: For this conference in Jacksonville in May 2012, the Center has brought together a panel that, in addition to featuring discussion of the Center’s Justice Index, will present representatives from the Florida courts, the World Justice Project, and Jacksonville Legal Aid, talking about their respective perspectives on how reliance on data can increase access to justice.
1. Justice Gap Seminar (spring 2012) begun at Cardozo Law School: This spring the Center is teaching The Justice Gap, Strategies for Delivering on the Promise of Equal Justice in American Courts. Students learn how the tools of policy advocacy can be used to advance campaigns that make the justice system more accessible and fair.
2. Center presented on First Amendment protections for government-funded lawyers for the poor: In an era of reduced access to the courts, the Center participated in an important national conversation hosted on January 6, 2012 by the Professional Responsibility Section of the American Association of Law Schools: Does the First Amendment Protect Attorney Advice, Assistance, and Representation?
1. Laura Abel joined Center as Deputy Director: Laura Abel, Champion of Change, honored by the White House for her work to increase access to justice, moved to the National Center on December 12, 2011 to help develop and guide its initiatives.
2. Center published op ed calling for national Justice Index: In “We need a national Justice Index”, published in the National Law Journal on December 5, 2011, the Center describes its plan to gather data in a single web site (www.justiceindex.org, under development) that will illuminate the performance of state based justice systems in delivering justice. The Justice Index can strengthen the case for essential funding needed by the courts, while also strengthening the case for reforms that are needed in courts and in communities to increase access to justice.
3. Center participated in two national conversations on access to justice: The Center participated in two important conversations hosted by the National Legal Aid & Defender Association at its annual conference on December 7-8, 2012: i) The Continuum of Services: How Courts and Legal Aid Programs Are Responding to People Without Representation, and ii) Turner v. Rogers: Footnote, Game Changer, or Disaster for Civil Access to Justice?
(originally published Feb. 29, 2012)