National Center for Access to Justice

Mission

The National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) uses data, research, policy analysis and advocacy to expose how the justice system fails to stand up for equal justice and, all too often, functions as a source of oppression. Our work is rooted in the principle that all people should enjoy access to justice, which we describe as the meaningful opportunity to be heard, secure one’s rights and obtain the law’s protection.

With that framing, we strive to cut across the false divisions that tend to isolate the civil and criminal justice reform movements from one another. We emphasize that meaningful access to justice requires deep reforms that speak to both sides of the docket. The barriers that block people from accessing justice in civil cases where their homes, their savings, or their families are at risk, are often inextricably bound up with the injustices people confronting a criminal charge must face. Too often, some of the most significant problems and badly needed reforms remain out of the limelight of mainstream policy discourse. Our work helps change that.

In practical terms, our work focuses on areas where we are equipped to add unique value and push for change in partnership with others. Our flagship project is the Justice Index, an empirical resource that illuminates the performance of all 50 states in relation to one other on a matrix of pragmatic, baseline policies we have determined in consultation with experts to be essential to ensuring access to justice. The Index helps create momentum for reform and engender healthy competition among states. We are currently expanding it to include key reforms around criminal justice fines and fees.

We are working to bring rigorous, principled research and analysis to the task of advancing progress toward a fairer justice system, and in so doing, to achieve a better society.