My Wife Joan Zorza Honored by Boston College Law School For Her Domestic Violence Work

As described in the Summer 2017 issue of BC Law, Joan was given one of the five Law Day awards this year by Boston College Law School for her lifetime of dedicated work in domestic violence and sexual assault.  She saved thousands.

Here is the video of her being introduced for the Hon. David S. Nelson Public Interest Law Award and her speech.  (I apologize for the quality of the video at the beginning.  It gets much better at about 2 min, 25 secs.)



Posted in Domestic Violence, Family Law, Law Schools, Legal Aid, Personal, Vocation | Leave a comment

Professional-Client Partnering Lessons

Note: This is an access to just version of a recent post on my Patient Partnering Site.

A recently published tool intended to be used by medical institutions to encourage their patients to think of themselves as members of a care team, rather than “subjects,” has the potential to help ATJ organizations rethink their relationship to their clients.  It may be hard for lawyers to think of this as a problem, because after all, we are obliged to put our clients first, but that rarely extends beyond individual case litigation, and even at that level nuance is often lost.

The tool, which has been published, by the British Medical Jounral as a response to an editorial, is called An Invitation to Patient and Family Engaged Care for Consumers: What it is, Why it Matters and How Patients and Families Can Engage.

This short document, of which I am proud to be listed listed as a co-author, explains the concept of patient engaged care, describes and briefly summarizes a synthesis of the research into the impact of this approach performed by the National Academy of Medicine and Planetree.

Perhaps most importantly, then tool then specifically welcomes and invites patients to become engaged and partnering team members. (Note that my blog, attempting to summarize the very rich and detailed original Planetree-NAM paper, into which I had some input, is here.)

The BMJ response includes our offered model “Dear Patients & Families” letter, which could be used by medical institutions to explain, welcome and support full engaged participation.

For example, the invitation references and summarizes the research as follows:

The good news is that research shows that patient and family engaged care leads to better relationships between you and your healthcare providers. It helps keeps patients safe. It reduces healthcare costs and keeps people from being unnecessarily readmitted to the hospital. Patient and family engaged care makes healthcare staff feel more connected to the work they do, which makes for a better experience for everyone.

Below is a list of some of the tools specific invitations and suggestions are below.  As you read them, think about whether we in access to just are in the position to make any similar suggestions and invitations, and if not, if there is a good reason for that.

  • On your next visit to your healthcare provider, ask them if they have seen the framework for patient and family engaged care. If not, direct them here:
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there is a way for you to be involved in improving care. For example, ask if they have a patient-family advisory council.
  • Ask to be part of the organization’s leadership or government team. Ask if patients are included as board members, for example.
  • Ask to be with your loved one at all times, if they want that. Question why there are restrictions to visiting patients. If having visitors is not beneficial to your healing process, enlist the support of your care team to set parameters for guests.
  • Ask that a Care Partner or family member be present and engaged for all conversations about your health.
  • State your feelings. They matter just as much as your physical condition.
  • Get involved in research. Ask about how your condition is being studied and how you can help.
  • Let your care team know how you like to receive information.
  • Ask to see and contribute to your medical record. If you don’t understand what you read in your medical record, ask questions until you do.
  • Tell your care provider what your health goals are – in your own terms (for instance, being able to walk up a flight of stairs, being able to play with your grandchildren without getting winded, etc.)
  • Come to doctor’s appointments prepared. Bring a notepad with questions, your medication list and any other pertinent personal healthcare information.
  • Create a medical biography about yourself. What conditions and medications have you had in the past? What are you currently experiencing? What are your goals for the future?
  • Act like you belong. Be a teammate, not a subject.

I think the last one, “Act like you belong. Be a teammate, not a subject,” sums the whole approach up perfectly.

In the original blog, I expressed the hope that medical institutions would want to include this letter in their intake, on-boarding process for new patients, and wold encourage staff to use its suggestions as a framework for discussions with patients about a team approach and its specifics. I pointed out that, together with the underlying NAM framework, it could also be an excellent too for staff training at all levels on how not just to have an engagement discussion, but to make all discussions team discussions.

I would make a parallel plea for access to justice institutions.  In particular such an approach would help institutions focus on how and whether they are empowering the client or customer voice, whether at the individual or case level.  The same qquestions are appropriate for advocacy, service, and Judaical institutions.



Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Attorney-Client, Bar Associations, Communications Strategy, Court Management, Defender Programs, Law Schools, Legal Aid, Legal Ethics, LSC, Medical System Comparision, Self-Help Services, Systematic Change, Usabilty | 1 Comment

New ATJ-GIS Fellowship Opportunity from SRLN

Katherine Alteneder of SRLN announces:

I am delighted to seek applications for an exciting new ATJ fellowship opportunity with SRLN in partnership with Georgetown’s Institute for Technology Law & Policy and made possible with the generous support of the Public Welfare Foundation. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis beginning July 17, 2017, until the position is filled.  The position is located at Georgetown Law, Washington, DC.
The Fellow will help our data and GIS group to create a county-level mapped database of innovations and self-help reforms that are improving litigants’ access to justice throughout the United States. The Fellow will build on this rich data set to gain a nuanced understanding of best practices in various counties, layering this knowledge with user demographic information to assist decision makers in identifying which reforms and service delivery systems are best suited to particular communities based on their population profile and needs. The initiative is designed to support comprehensive, systemic, data-informed reform, promoting innovation and peer network building throughout the country.
Having seen some of the products of the SRLN initiative, I can attest to its transformative value.  Most recently, I understand that the data maps generated for the Illinois ATJ Commission were very helpful in bringing that planning process to such a successful conclusion.
Posted in Law Schools, Mapping/GIS, Technology, Tools | 2 Comments

New Public Welfare Foundation President Announced

Good news

The Public Welfare Foundation has announced that their new President, effective October 1, will be Candice Jones, currently Senior Advisor at Chicago CRED in Illinois.  As the announcement notes:

Previously, she served as Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, supervising operations, programming, budget matters, and communications for a cabinet level state agency. She also previously served as a White House Fellow, managing a portfolio within the U.S. Department of Education that included developing education strategies for correctional institutions and driving a plan to reinstate federal Pell grants for youth and adults in custody.  

Ms. Jones also has prior experience in philanthropy, having served as a program officer with the MacArthur Foundation where she managed a grant portfolio focused on decreasing racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system and on improving the quality of defense for indigent youth.

I know that we all look forward to welcoming Candice Jones when she brings her valuable experience to this critically important position on October 1.  Until that date, she will be wrapping up maters in Chicago, and Mary McClymont will remain President of PWF.

Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Public Welfare Foundation, Transitions | Leave a comment

Google Home Hears Domestic Dispute and Calls Cops

This is the stuff or dream and nightmare.  According to All That Is Interesting Dot Com,

As reported by ABC News, New Mexico man Eduardo Barros was house-sitting at a home in Tijeras with his girlfriend and her daughter this past Sunday.

Barros then got into a fight with his girlfriend, and things grew violent. At some point, he allegedly threatened her with a gun, saying: “Did you call the sheriffs?” However, the home that the couple was occupying had an active smart home device running inside.

The Google Home misinterpreted Barros’ threat as a voice command, and called 911. When the police heard the altercation over the phone, they immediately rushed over with a SWAT team. After a long standoff, the police were able to capture Barros.

My understanding is that to activate Google Home, you have to say “OK, Google,” although sometimes “OK” is enough, but I am not quite convinced on the details. (remember it can be set to recognize different voices.)

But the general point is that it would be possible to have smart devices, including phones, set to summon help, in pre-detirmined situations.

You can imagine an interface in which the user says ye or no,to calling the police upon certain words or phrases are used, or a level of shaking, or a combination of shaking and a voice, etc, etc.  You could imagine a cancel system.

At the same time, it has to be that the recordings of your 1984 communications are really protected against government access by multiple layers of law and technology.

A lot to be settled and thought through.


Posted in Artificial Intelligence, Criminal Law, Domestic Violence, Family Law, Mobile Technology, Policing, Remote Services, Science, Security, Technology | 1 Comment

Maybe Gorsuch Has Some Possibilities

There is certainly evidence in support of the dominant meme of Gorsuch’s extreme conservatism.  However, there may be one nugget of good news in the access to justice area.

In a VA disability case, in which the Court denied cert., Gorsuch choose to dissent from the denial as follows:

Lower courts often presume that Department of Veterans Affairs medical examiners are competent to render expert opinions against veterans seeking compensation for disabilities they have suffered during military service. The VA appears to apply the same presumption in its own administrative proceedings.

But where does this presumption come from? It enjoys no apparent provenance in the relevant statutes. There Congress imposed on the VA an affirmative duty to assist — not impair — veterans seeking evidence for their disability claims. And consider how the presumption works in practice. The VA usually refuses to supply information that might allow a veteran to challenge the presumption without an order from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. And that Board often won’t issue an order unless the veteran can first supply a specific reason for thinking the examiner incompetent.

No doubt this arrangement makes the VA’s job easier. But how is it that an administrative agency may manufacture for itself or win from the courts a regime that has no basis in the relevant statutes and does nothing to assist, and much to impair, the interests of those the law says the agency is supposed to serve? (bold added)

Now, you might wonder if our intervention is needed to remedy the problem. After all, a number of thoughtful colleagues on the Federal Circuit have begun to question the presumption’s propriety. And this may well mean the presumption’s days are numbered. But I would not wait in hope. The issue is of much significance to many today and, respectfully, it is worthy of this Court’s attention.

Interestingly, Sotomayor also dissented from the denial, writing separately.

To raise an objection, a veteran needs to know the medical examiner’s credentials. And yet, the VA does not provide veterans with that information as a matter of course. Nor does it always provide veterans with that information upon request. The only road to guaranteed access to an examiner’s credentials runs through a Board order. The Board, however, has some- times required the veteran to have already raised a spec- ific objection to an examiner’s competence before ordering the VA to provide the credentials. This places a veteran in “a catch-22” where she “must make a specific objection to an examiner’s competence before she can learn the exam- iner’s qualifications.” 834 F. 3d 1347, 1357 (CA Fed. 2016) (Reyna, J., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc).

Now, it is easy to to see Gorsuch’s dissent from the denial as being grounded in his deep skepticism towards Chevron deference, the Court’s willingness to defer to agency interpretations of statutes.  It also allows him to point out that individuals can be hurt by this deference as corporations.

But the new Justice does seem troubled by the access to justice denial inherent in the structure of burdens of pleading and disclosure.

This might suggest a willingess to question rules and procedures that place unfair and unnecessary burdens on access to justice.  In particular, it might suggest willingness to take seriously statutory statements of commitments to accessibility of legal procedures.

It is noteworthy that in his 2016 article in Judicature, Access to Affordable Justice, Gorsuch discusses and urges civil justice reforms as one of the paths to increase accessibility, and specifically analyzes, at page 51, mandatory disclosures.

That the Justices are starting to focus on the access to justice implications of court rules and doctrines can only be to the good, and suggests the possibility of building an access jurisprudence.


Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Generally, Administative Proecdure, Court Management, Federal Agencies, Federal Courts, Rules Reform, Simplification, Supreme Court, Systematic Change, Veterans | 2 Comments

Google Home May Help Us Understand the Definition of “Legal Advice,” and Therefore of What Activities Falls Under Regulatory Authority.

This is sort of fun.

We have been struggling now for over two decades to find the most useful and access-expanding ways of explaining when an interaction is the giving of information, not generally subject of regulation as the practice of law, and when it is something more, which should be restricted, usually but not always at this point, to lawyers.  As a general matter the information/advice test is usually used, although it is often recognized that the definitions shift over time, and that the core point is preserving neutrality when it is the court helping, and competence, regardless of who is helping.

Most of you probably know about Google Home, of which you can ask questions.  Monty Python fans, for example, will be happy that if you ask, “who won the cup final in 1949?” you will get the right answer.  Perhaps more surprising, if you ask, “what is class struggle?’ you do get an appropriate answer.  But if you ask the more “authorized version” of Python, as used in the Communist Quiz Sketch, asked of Karl Marx, “The struggle of class against class is a what struggle?”  Google home is as yet unable to give an answer.

So what?  Well look at this analysis by John Brandon under the heading, Google sticks to the facts, but needs a point of view, of Google Home’s capacity, and see if it seems somehow familiar.

Using the Google Home on a daily basis makes you appreciate how helpful it is. You can ask for directions and find out about the weather. After a while, you realize the Assistant that answers questions can provide a wealth of information, but it’s essentially a duplicate of Google Search. Just imagine how much more valuable the device would become if it could also give advice. .  .  .

One reason is that the bot on Google Home is not that intelligent yet. It doesn’t really know me, and it doesn’t really know how to give advice. It can tell me to bring a jacket on the trip because of a weather report, but doesn’t go a level deeper and know that the trail I’ve picked is known for inclement weather and wind — especially 20 miles from my origin point. As a voice-enabled version of search, it is helpful. But a true bot needs to parse complex information and provide better advice. It needs to go a few steps further and understand what I’m trying to do, become more proactive, and engage in a discussion with me that is helpful in a way that goes beyond the facts.  (Bold added)


A true AI assistant would know about me and my tastes, and know how to match the data already out on the web with my individual preferences. It would know how to give advice by correlating various inputs — exactly like the human brain

In other words, facts yes, opinions and judgement, no.

Put that way, it is easy to see why we limit going beyond legal information right now.  But it is also becoming easier to envision that changing over time.  What would a
“Google Court,” look like?

In the short term, it may actually be useful, in analyzing if something is legal information, in asking what questions such a environment could actually answer, and in what way.  I think these are OK.

When can I file for divorce? (some follow up needed)

How much child support will I get? (if a formula can be applied)

But not:

Should I ask for custody of my children? (although a well written response could provide a framework for the information seeker to think about the issue).

So, play around with Good Home or equivalents, and see if it helps you think about these choices.


Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Artificial Intelligence, Child Support, Document Assembly, Family Law, Legal Ethics, Non-Lawyer Practice, Plain Language, Public Education, Remote Services, Self-Help Services, Systematic Change, Technology, Triage | 1 Comment