Innovation Ideas Based on SJI Priority Investment Areas

A few days ago I blogged on the excellent new State Justice Institute Priority Investment Areas, which now guides much of SJI’s grantmaking.

Today I am going to make some suggestions for innovative possible projects in each of those areas, linking to prior blog posts and articles that may be helpful as folks think about their own planning processes.  The next grant deadline is Febrary 1, 2012.  (Special thanks to guest blogger Claudia Johnson for contributing to this list).  Given this new set of priorities, it is particulalry inportant to nore the range of organizations to which SJI can make grants, including “Individuals, partnerships, firms, corporations (for-profit organizations must waive their fees)”.  See page 62568 of the Federal Register, here.

Here are some possibilities both for Project Grants (most directly impacted by fitting within priority areas) and and also Technical Assistance and Curriculum Adaption grants.

Of course, states and courts will carefully analyze their particular needs and environments, including particularly availability of partners, and make choices based on that analysis.  Here is a link to the SRLN Diagnostic Protocols that may be helpful in that process.  Here is a link to our Best Practices, that might also be useful as a source of ideas and resources.

1.  Self-Represented Litigation – e.g., self-help centers, online services, training.

This is obviously an area of huge need.

  • Creation of Justice Corps programs to use AmeriCorps volunteers to provide self-help informational services (might be eligible for program grants or TA grants to assist in planning and set up). (recent blog here.)
  • Setting up statewide SRL service hotlines like MN and AK have done, backed up by online chat, co-browsing, etc (again might qualify for program or TA grants) (MN site here.)
  • Standardizing, simplifying and/or automating statewide forms (see curriculum here.)
  • Adapting existing curricula for judges and/or court leadership on SRL Innovation (see this link on
  • Adapting existing curricula for court staff on how to help litigants while protecting the neutrality of the court (discussed in this article).
  • Exploring court process simplification, particularly from the point of view of the self-represented (this also fits under re-engineering; California example here).
  • Working with the bar setting up pilot or statewide unbundling panels (also discussed in this article).
  • Working with law schools to create incubators that help students transition into middle income practice, including unbundling (recent blog here.)
  • Technical assistance to state access to justice commissions on broadening scope to include SRL issues, or (if there is none in the state) to establish one or a task force or launching conference  (see CCJ/COSCA Resolution.)
  • Researching online interviewing techniques, and integrating into document assembly. (blog post here).
  • Diagnostic processes to identify most productive areas of innovation (SRLN Diagnostic Toolkit here.)

2.  Limited English Proficiency (LEP) – e.g., interpretation service plans, remote interpretation (outside the courtroom), interpreter certification, courtroom services (plain language forms, websites, etc.).

3.  Reengineering in Response to Budget Reductions – e.g., the process of reengineering, regionalization or centralization of services, structural changes, the electronic record.

  •  Enhanced caseflow management, with removal of unecessary steps, and provision to services at key steps to minimize wasted appearances (see Elkins Report)
  • Electronic filing, designed to be access-friendly and well integrated into court data and management tools (example of project here.)
  • Statewide self-help services (see above)

4.  Immigration Issues in the State Courts – e.g., impact of federal and state immigration law and policies, juvenile and family issues, training.

  • Providing multi-lingual information to litigants about interplay between immigration and state court issues (possibly in cooperation with ICE) (Here is the SJI-funded study on Addressing Immigration in the State Courts.)

5.  Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Elder Issues – e.g., visitor programs, electronic reporting, reports, training.

  • Create a Model Language Access Court for the elderly (compare LEP court idea).
  • Senior friendly informational websites and online forms (Here is the LawHelp/NY Senior Page.)
  • Partnerships with community centers (and maybe health programs) on access to information and forms completion assistance (e.g. public libraries)

I’d be happy to brainstorm ideas with interested potential applicants.  Lets take full advantage of this moment of opportunity to fund access innovation.  (I should declare interest; I do consult in some of these areas.)

(Note: some of these links are to  This is a free membership site, open for non-commercial use to access to justice practitioners.)

Please add to these ideas in the comments


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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