A2J Update November 11, 2016

ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION MEETS NOVEMBER 16 AT 3:00

The Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission will hold its next meeting at 3:00 pm on Monday, November 16, in the Conference Suite in the Adams Courthouse. The Agenda for the meeting includes Appeals Court Justice Cynthia Cohen discussing the access to justice features of the new Massachusetts Code of Judicial Conduct (effective January 1, 2016). Justice Cohen chaired the committee that drafted the revisions.

Also on the Agenda are a discussion of the Issue Paper Concerning New Categories of Legal Services Providers put out for comment by the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services. That discussion will take place in the context of a preliminary report from the Massachusetts A2J Commission’s Committee on Nonlawyer Roles.

Finally, there will be a report of the A2J Commission’s Administrative Justice Committee.

The Commission has scheduled three meetings for the new year: January 28, March 21 and May 19.

FOCUS ON OUTCOMES HEATS UP

At last week’s annual conference of the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, President Jim Sandman of the Legal Services Corporation spelled out its new feature: an outcomes “toolkit.” (It can be found at clo.lsc.gov). All LSC grantees will be required to record information on the outcomes of all extended service cases starting January 1.

But the initial step is quite restrained. No national list of outcomes is proposed — programs and their softwares are too varied for uniformity in outcomes. Programs will have to report that they are recording outcomes, and how they are using the outcome data to improve their program services, but no report of actual outcomes is made to LSC. LSC is hoping that programs will experiment with this material and find its many uses justify the burden.

That’s it for now. No promises about future steps. Sandman’s talk was full of the uses of this information in fund raising and mentioned more sophisticated applications in allocating funds and assessing lawyer and program efficiency and effectiveness.

SRLN LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

The “Self-Represented” Litigants Network (SRLN) has launched its new website at www.srln.org. On the site one can find extensive resources for solving the challenging problems posed by litigants without lawyers.  The site is up to date on innovations in the field and invites new thinking to come forward.

CHIEF JUSTICE GANTS CALLS FOR 100% ACCESS

In his October 20 “state of the judiciary” address, the Chief Justice announced the ambitious goal of providing all litigants meaningful assistance in their attempts to obtain just outcomes in their cases.

“Turning to access to justice, we continue to search for ways to provide equal justice in civil cases to those unable to afford counsel. Two court service centers were opened last year in Boston and Greenfield. Two more have opened this year, in Lawrence and Worcester, and two more are scheduled to open soon in Springfield and Brockton. We have adopted a language access plan that we are in the process of implementing, and have created additional multi-lingual forms and informational materials. We have added more and better self-help content on the trial court website at Mass.gov. This summer, the national Conference of Chief Justices unanimously  endorsed Resolution 5, which urged states to develop tools and provide assistance to achieve “the goal of 100 percent access through a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services.” We in Massachusetts have embraced that goal since at least 2010, and, under the leadership of our access to justice heroes Judge Dina Fein and Erika Rickard, we intend to prepare a blueprint in the year ahead setting forth what we have done and what we intend to do in pursuit of that goal, and to invite every other state to do the same, so that we can learn from each other in our quest of equal justice for all.”