A2J Update May 16, 2016

Final Access to Justice Commission Meeting of this Court Year Thursday, May 19 at 3:00.

The Access to Justice Commission is meeting Thursday, May 19, at 3:00 in the Conference Suite on the Second Floor of the Adams Courthouse. This is the final scheduled meeting of this court year. The agenda for the meeting includes:

·         Consideration of a comment on the Proposed Uniform Rules on Public Access to Court Records,

·         Report by the Non-Lawyer Roles Committee

·         Report of the Special Advisor to the Trial Court on Access to Justice Initiatives.

·         Presentation on the most recent year of the Access to Justice Fellows Program, and

·         Information about the national campaign for “100% Access,” including the development of a blueprint for Massachusetts access to justice efforts and leadership speeches by Chief Justice Gants and Special Advisor Fein at last weekend’s National Meeting of Access to Justice Commission chairs.

 

The meeting is open to the public.

Massachusetts Finishes Second in “Justice Index” Ranking of States and Territories.

The National Center for Access to Justice published its second edition of the “Justice Index” during last week’s Equal Justice Conference in Chicago, and Massachusetts ranked second in the nation behind the District of Columbia. The Index ranks all states and territories on their systems for providing access to justice based on an extensive data gathering effort. The first edition came out two years ago, and Massachusetts ranked eighth.

Four types of access are rated separately. The test was whether the state has and can document access policies, not how well any particular policy has been implemented.  Three of the tests focus on judicial system measures. Massachusetts finished second on services to self-represented individuals, third on language access services and sixth on services for people who are disabled.  On each of these measures the concerted efforts of court leaders could be seen in the increase in Massachusetts’ ranking.

However, the effects of the continuing difficulty obtaining funds was reflected in  our fall from sixth to tenth  on the fourth measure, the number of civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people. The overall composite ranking of second was earned despite the drop off in the attorneys-per-poor-person rank.

In a press release issued at the time of the release, Chief Justice Gants praised the many court personnel whose work had produced the result. “But we are under no illusion that we are where we need to be. Mile traveled; miles to go.”

Aspirational Goal of “100% Access” Gathers National Attention,  Grant Funds

At the parallel conference in Chicago for leaders of Access to Justice Commissions, those next miles received concentrated attention from two Massachusetts judges. Hon. Dina Fein, First Justice of the Western Division of the Housing Court and the Special Advisor on Access to Justice Initiatives in the Trial Court since 2009, delivered an opening plenary address describing development of a “blueprint” for achieving “100% Access.” The aspirational goal has been declared in a joint Resolution 5 by last summer’s meeting of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. Chief Justice Ralph Gants was the principal speaker  at a subsequent session on “Meaningful Access to Justice for All.” Chief Justice Gants is co-chairing a national committee to award grants and lead efforts to develop state plans that bring justice system performance closer to the goal.

The Commission discussed this  goal and campaign at its meetings in January and March. Many of the Commission’s committees are working on projects that will help with the development and implementation of the 100% Access blueprint. It is expected that the Commission will seek to collaborate with the courts and with the many other participants in the state justice system in the months and years ahead.