Texas takes a step that other states without standardized forms might well consider.
The Supreme Court has, by Order online here, established a Task Force to work on “forms for statewide use.”
The stated reason:
The Court is concerned about the accessibility of the court system to Texans who are unable to afford legal representation. After consultation with the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the Court agrees that developing pleading and order forms approved by the Court for statewide use would increase access to justice and reduce the strain on courts posed by pro se litigants.
It has been given the following mission:
a. monitor local efforts to create, amend, or modify forms and incorporate local efforts within the Task Force’s purview;
b. evaluate best practices for the creation and distribution of forms;
c. consult with and seek input from stakeholders including the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and legal services providers;
d. draft an implementation plan that will identify legal areas that would benefit from the availability of uniform pleading and order forms and that will make the forms readily available;
e. develop proposed models of uniform pleading and order forms to be evaluated and approved by the Court for statewide use.
The Task Force has been given a September 2011 initial reporting deadline, with the Report to include a schedule for the creation of standard forms deemed to be needed. The Court has also appointed a Justice as a liaison to the Task Force.
This all seems like an excellent approach to move an agenda that is critical to access.
It should be noted that there was strong support for statewide forms at the statewide Texas Forum on Self-Represented Litigants and the Courts held in Dallas in early, 2010 (I was present, and spoke). As the Court put it in its Order:
Participants at the Forum considered the impact pro se litigants have on the court system and evaluated tools to enable the courts to help pro se litigants navigate the legal system and to improve court efficiencies. An issue that arose consistently throughout the Forum was the need for statewide standardized forms for pleadings frequently used by pro se litigants.
Congratulations to the Commission and its members for this important step.