National Center for Access to Justice

Justice Index

In the Justice Index, NCAJ’s web-based resource supporting justice system reform, NCAJ gathers and presents data showing the extent to which each of our 50 state-based justice systems has adopted best policies for assuring access to justice for all. Visit the Justice Index at, justiceindex.org. On August 12, 2017, the American Bar Association presented its highest pro bono honor, the Pro Bono Publico Award, to the six law firms, four corporations and three law schools comprising the Justice Index Pro Bono Team that helped create  the Justice Index. See the ABA’s video about the Justice Index. Obtain an overview of the Justice Index, here. Read news coverage of the Justice Index here! Check out experts’ opinions about the Justice Index here! In Summer 2019, NCAJ is conducting a national research project, The Attorney Count, to update the Justice Index’s count of the number of civil legal aid organizations and attorneys in the United States.

Purpose

Public institutions function best when people understand how they operate, when the performance of these institutions can be evaluated, and when analogous institutions can be compared with one another. Transparency is particularly important for courts, which rely on the public’s faith for their existence.  By setting benchmarks, identifying best policies, and publishing data and findings, the Justice Index has, since March 2014, been supporting the expansion of access to justice. The Justice Index empowers judges, legislators, executive branch officials, court administrators, legal aid reformers, Acces to Justice Commissions,  reporters, academics and activists in their respective and diverse efforts to improve our justice system. 

Policies Covered in the Justice Index

In the Justice Index, findings are presented on four aspects of state based justice systems: 

  1. Number of civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 low income individuals in each state.
  2. Systems in place to support self represented parties in state courts.
  3. Systems in place to support people with limited proficiency in English in state courts.
  4. Systems in place to support people with disabilities in state courts.

Everyone can use the Justice Index to see which particular best policies are present, or absent, in each state, and can learn from neighboring states. Visit justiceindex.org to see all the findings contained in the Justice Index.

Partners in Creating the Justice Index

The Justice Index was created by NCAJ in 2013-14. Pro bono support has been key to the project since its inception as described at the Justice Index, justiceindex.org. Pfizer Inc. and the Pfizer Legal Alliance (PLA) of 15 law firms, Deloitte, MSDS, attorneys and staff at Skadden Arps and at Kirkland and Ellis, students at Cardozo School of Law and University of Pennsylvania School of Law, along with attorneys and staff at UBS Corp. helped to build the original Justice Index and to populate it with data. In 2014, teams of pro bono lawyers at Skadden Arps and at Kirkland & Ellis updated, corrected and clarified the Justice Index, with new findings posted in November of that year. In 2015-16, NCAJ carried out a comprehensive research project to update the Justice Index. NCAJ asked state justice system officials to respond to an extensive set of questions about laws, rules, and policies for assuring access to justice in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Five law firms (contributing more than 50 lawyers) worked pro bono  with NCAJ staff to conduct a rigorous Quality Assurance Review of the proposed findings recommended by the states. The current version of the Justice Index, published in May 2016, justiceindex.org, contains the final findings. Justice Index 2014, the original justice index, remains online at www.justiceindex2014.

Larger Context – Sustainable Development Goal 16

The Justice Index occupies a place within a larger effort to rely on data and indexing as a means of increasing access to justice in the world and eliminating extreme poverty. In September 2015 the United Nations adopted the “Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs), a set of “Global Goals” intended to guide efforts to end extreme poverty in all nations including the United States by 2030. Goal 16, and global Target 16.3, urge countries to assure access to justice for all their residents. For more information on the SDGs and Goal 16, see NCAJ’s July 28, 2015 Fact Sheet, August 3, 2015 Blog Post, December 1, 2016 Blog Post & Proposed Indicator Set for Goal 16 and Target 16.3, all prepared jointly by NCAJ and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute witht the support of the Open Society Foundations. For updated perspective on implementation of Goal 16, see Justice for All – The report of the Task Force on Justice (New York Center on International Cooperation, 2019).

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