While it includes many valuable ideas, and is focused at least initially somewhat on the huge challenges of providing culturally competent services, I particularly want to highlight three ideas; it introduces the (new and useful) concept of a “Litigant Assistance Network”, is explicit about the importance of triage into this Network; and, discuses the need for governance of this Network.
The elements of the Action Plan to Implement A Uniform Litigant Assistance Triage Process are as follows:
1.Establish effective triage tools and processes that can be used by judges and court personnel to determine assistance needs and link litigants to appropriate services.
2.Clarify to all court personnel preferred services and the appropriate uses of particular types of litigant assistance services.
3.Establish evaluation processes for monitoring the affects of litigant assistance on case outcomes and court operations, and making program improvements.
4.Clarify to litigant assistance service providers how the triage process will be used and the implications for their work.
I also find highly suggestive the concept of Litigant Assistance Network Governance — in other words the idea that the currently fragmented components of assistance need to be thought of as one system that is, at least in some way, actually governed and managed. Again, the plan components for this:
1. Specify the roles of court litigant assistance personnel, other court staff, and judges in identifying needs, providing assistance, and linking litigant to other assistance providers.
2. Clarify among the court, justice partners, and services providers preferred services and the appropriate uses of particular types of litigant assistance services.
3. Establish evaluation processes for monitoring the affects of litigant assistance on case outcomes and court operations.
It sounds to me that regardless of whether the focus is only on culturally-focused services or all services, this is like a local Access to Justice Commission — but one with some actual management bite — what an idea!
I’d also like to highlight this planning process as an excellent use of the SJI Technical Assistance grant stream.