Simply Brilliant — Florida Bar Foundation and SRLN Maps Show Hurricane Impacts and Legal Vulnerability

I do not think of myself as someone who “gushes” about every innovation, but this is so wonderful.

If you were ever skeptical about the value of mapping and GIS for access to justice, just look at these and change your mind.

The link shows the whole story of the hurricane, all the way through to the scale of legal vulnerability across the state.

Here are two of the many maps, the physical impact, and the impact on the legal vulnerable:

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The overlap is astonishing, and crystal clear from comparing these two.

The Legal Vulnerability Index is itself a fascinating idea, and one that has many potential implications.  Below is the way it was calculated for Miami-Dade:

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These three slides are only a tiny subset of the visualized data, which also include Federal response.  Do look at the whole document, which is here.  Ask yourself how this approach can help with 100% access planning.

Congrats to SRLN (map gallery) and FBF.

 

 

 

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Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Census Bureau, Legal Aid, Mapping/GIS, Research and Evalation, SRLN, Technology | Leave a comment

Thoughts on the Shriver Study

It is now several months since the California Shriver Pilot Report was issued.  The findings and recommendations concerning benefits of counsel have been widely disseminated. (Report announcement summary here)

So, I want to here highlight some of the findings that have gotten less attention and may be of use in 100% system design.  I would urge that these are of equal value.

Triage (at page 7)

Limited attorney resources are used most effectively with well-designed triage systems. Such systems are critical to the smooth functioning of the continuum of service. In order to use limited attorney resources most effectively, referral mechanisms were established to try to ensure that litigants received the appropriate level of assistance, consistent with individual need. The range of services comprising the “continuum of service” included self- help assistance for those who would remain self-represented, limited-scope legal assistance for those who would receive legal assistance for a part of their case (“unbundling”), and full legal representation. The continuum of service involved all key stakeholders—the court, legal aid programs, and other nonprofits and government entities.

Self-Help Centers (at page 8)

Expanded court-based self-help centers are a critical piece of the continuum of service. They provide self-help assistance for those who will be self-represented and also can help in the triage process of getting litigants to the level of help they need, whether it is limited- scope legal assistance or full legal representation. A key example of an effective court-based self-help service is the probate facilitator, who provided an effective service, enabling parties to navigate the complex guardianship process in a timely, cost-effective way, benefitting families and the court.

 

E-Filling (at page 8)

The improved use of technology, including the expansion of e-filing, can help facilitate the efficient handling of cases when accommodations are made for those without access to technology. Particularly in landlord-tenant cases, where e-filing had previously only been available to landlords at one site, the expansion of e-filing to tenants helped facilitate the efficient handling of these cases. The increased use of document assembly software programs that make it easier to prepare court documents is more efficient and enables self- represented litigants to better represent themselves.

The project team are to be praised for remembering that access to justice is a complex ecosystem in which improvement in one part of the system leverages and enhances those in others.

One of the interesting questions is how the role of the self help center changes if and when there is greater counsel funding.

Another is how the triage rules change.

 

Posted in Access to Counsel, Access to Justice Generally, Court Management, Document Assembly, E-filing, Legal Aid, Self-Help Services | Leave a comment

Oral History Interview Fragment: Future of Access to Justice

Last week, I was honored to be interviewed by Alan Houseman for the oral history project of the National Equal Justice Library.

I will be posting fragments that folks might find useful.

This first one actually comes near the end of the full interview, and is my attempt an an overview of my perspective on the future of access to justice.

I hope you find it useful, perhaps as a stimulant to discussion.  It is a little over 12 mins long.

Posted in Access to Justice Generally, History, Legal Aid, LSC, Non-Lawyer Practice, Referral Systems, Systematic Change, video | 2 Comments

That Defendant Gates Is Looking for a Lawyer Can Only Mean that a New Conflict With Manafort has Now Become Clear

This is really weird.  A defendant in a very high profile case, Gates, goes into court today essentially without a lawyer and has a public defender stand up for him on a very short term basis.  Its not a cost issue, because he, Gates, had promised to pay the PD’s costs.

So, there are only two possible explanations:  That Gates did not realize that he has any legal exposure, or that Gates has previously been represented, officially or not, by Manafort’s lawyer.  The first is manifestly impossible.

That leads us to the question as to why Gates only figured out that he needed his own lawyer this morning.

I can only imagine two scenarios — either that the lawyer only realized that the interests of the two defendants were in conflict today or that the prosecutor pulled the Assist US attorney aside and warned the private attorney that a motion to dismiss him from the case (maybe both defendants) would be made immediately.

If the initiative came from the private lawyer, then the question is what in the indictment showed a conflict that he did not know exist before, and why did he not know it.

In any event, this is bad news for the Trump gang, and maybe even worse news going forward.

Anyone want to reread the indictment with this in mind?

 

 

Posted in Attorney-Client, Criminal Law, Defender Programs, Dept. of Justice, Federal Courts, Legal Aid, Legal Ethics

Guest Post From Claudia Johnson On Washington ATJ Plan Including Racial Equity

Claudia writes: (Sorry for the Richard Zorza delay here in publishing.)

The Access to Justice Board of WA State just adopted a new State plan for the Delivery of Legal Services for the 2018 to 2020 working period. It is is an impressive and timely plan that describes priorities to “expand access to our civil justice system and identify and eliminate barriers that perpetuate poverty and deny justice”. http://www.wsba.org/~/media/Files/Legal%20Community/Committees_Boards_Panels/ATJ%20Board/Home%20Page%20News/ATJ%20State%20Plan%20Final.ashx

This plan was developed taking empirical data and findings into account. http://ocla.wa.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/CivilLegalNeedsStudy_October2015_V21_Final10_14_15.pdf .

The goals for these next few years center around  Goal #1: Race Equity.

This goal calls for all organizations providing civil legal services to create a shared awareness and understanding of what is needed to achieve race equity.  As far as I know–this is the first time ever in the past 10 years-that a state planning documents puts race equity at the center of all of its goals. Removing disparate outcomes and aligning organizations’ race and equity justice goals will not be easy–but it an issue that cries out for attention, whose time has come, and that if done across systems will greatly reduce the disparities by race and ethnicity of negative outcomes and increase opportunities to achieve justice for all.

The other goals that reinforce goal #1 and each other are:

Goal# 2  Legal Awareness and Education

Goal #3 Access for Underserved communities

Goal #4–Holistic Client Centered Services

Goal #5–Systemic Advocacy

The most exciting part of this plan is that it is centered and anchored in conversations around race and equal opportunity–and brings back into our conversations race equity. Failure to focus our efforts on race equity and to have conversations about how race is determinative of most outcomes has led to drastic consequences for our society, our communities,and our system of justice.

Each goal has discussion, with specific strategies and implementation steps that each and every group can use to align their work and resources to achieve these goals.

Other groups doing state planning  should take a look at the document–and consider if there are similar priorities in your state–based on needs and population and see if they could achieve consensus in tackling systematic race and equity issues as a priority for the next 3-5 years.

This Plan  should inspire other states, Access to Justice Commissions, and legal services planners and planning groups,  to have these needed conversations, look at the data in their states,  and make commitments to understand and then tackle race based inequities  in the our civil justice and legal system.

Congratulations to the Alliance for Justice of WA state, the Washington State Bar, OCLA and everyone who worked to complete a well thought out, innovative, and responsive state plan!

Thank you to all who worked for months on this and now give us this plan and these priorities. The end result is on target and inspiring.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Access to Justice Generally

Seventh Circuit’s Response to Judge Posner Misses the Point

The Seven Circuit, through Judge Wood, has responded to Judge Posner’s criticism of the Court’s approach to those without lawyers as follows:

First, while [Judge Posner] is certainly entitled to his own views about such matters as our Staff Attorney’s Office and the accommodations we make for pro se litigants, it is worth noting that his views about that Office are not shared by the other judges on the court, and his assumptions about the attitudes of the other judges toward pro se litigants are nothing more than that — assumptions. In fact, the judges and our staff attorneys take great care with pro se filings, and the unanimous view of the eleven judges on the Seventh Circuit (including actives and seniors) is that our staff attorneys do excellent work, comparable to the work done by our chambers law clerks. We are lucky to attract people of such high caliber for these two-year positions.

While all the judges involved are surely entitled to the greatest respect, what Judge Wood has unfortunately done here is turned a general criticism of the Courts into a specific attack on the Court’s staff attorneys, and then defended them.

But the point is not how good the staff attorneys are, but rather the sysem as a whole adequately protects those without lawyers, and ensures that they are heard.  Indeed, the logic of Judge Wood position could become fearfully close to saying that no advocacy is needed for anyone.

To return to Judge Posner’s point:

“I was not getting along with the other judges because I was (and am) very concerned about how the court treats pro se litigants, who I believe deserve a better shake,” Posner wrote.

And, in the New York Times:

In the Seventh Circuit, Judge Posner said, staff lawyers rather than judges assessed appeals from such litigants, and the court generally rubber-stamped the lawyers’ recommendations.

Judge Posner offered to help. “I wanted to review all the staff attorney memos before they went to the panel of judges,” he said. “I’d sit down with the staff attorney, go over his memo. I’d make whatever editorial suggestions — or editorial commands — that I thought necessary. It would be good education for staff attorneys, and it would be very good” for the litigants without lawyers.

“I had the approval of the director of the staff attorney program,” Judge Posner said, “but the judges, my colleagues, all 11 of them, turned it down and refused to give me any significant role. I was very frustrated by that.”

Indeed,  when I was a public defender in Massachusetts, I had one case in which a similar screening process in the court in which I was appearing for the defense led to a summary hearing, surely identified for affirmance,.  But my boss, on my telling him that Judge Benjamin Kaplan was to write the decision, told me to assume that there was a chance of reversal, and so I did, and soit was.  I am not sure if it was the same case, but in one summary affirmance case, the DA was so sure of victory that she did not turn up.  That case was a reversal, showing that staff attorneys do not always see things the same way as judges, no matter how good.

I think it would have been more helpful if Judge Woods, rather than re-framing Poner’s point, and then responding with a defense of the staff, would have instead addressed the general issue of openness to issues raised by those without lawyers.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Appellate Practice, Defender Programs, Federal Courts, Judicial Ethics, Non-Lawyer Practice | 1 Comment

More on Judge Posner’s Apostasy

This from Adam Liptak in the Times on Judge Posner’s resignation speaks for itself (read the whole piece, please).

“About six months ago,” Judge Posner said, “I awoke from a slumber of 35 years.” He had suddenly realized, he said, that people without lawyers are mistreated by the legal system, and he wanted to do something about it.  .  .  .

The immediate reason for his retirement was less abstract, he said. He had become concerned with the plight of litigants who represented themselves in civil cases, often filing handwritten appeals. Their grievances were real, he said, but the legal system was treating them impatiently, dismissing their cases over technical matters.

“These were almost always people of poor education and often of quite low level of intelligence,” he said. “I gradually began to realize that this wasn’t right, what we were doing.”

In the Seventh Circuit, Judge Posner said, staff lawyers rather than judges assessed appeals from such litigants, and the court generally rubber-stamped the lawyers’ recommendations.

Judge Posner offered to help. “I wanted to review all the staff attorney memos before they went to the panel of judges,” he said. “I’d sit down with the staff attorney, go over his memo. I’d make whatever editorial suggestions — or editorial commands — that I thought necessary. It would be good education for staff attorneys, and it would be very good” for the litigants without lawyers.

“I had the approval of the director of the staff attorney program,” Judge Posner said, “but the judges, my colleagues, all 11 of them, turned it down and refused to give me any significant role. I was very frustrated by that.”

His new book, he said, would have added to the tension. “If I were still on the court,” he said, “it would be particularly awkward because, implicitly or explicitly, I’m criticizing the other judges.” .  .  .

“The basic thing is that most judges regard these people as kind of trash not worth the time of a federal judge,” he said.

It is particularly appropriate that the Judge was thinking about internal changes to make sure that every case was given a real opportunity to be heard.

From  such insights  and courage come change and revolutions.  Thank you Judge Posner.

 

Posted in Access to Counsel, Access to Justice Generally, Appellate Practice, Books, Federal Courts, Pro Bono | 1 Comment