Maybe it’s time to sum up an integrated access strategy for 2012.
I see four major directions right now:
- Leverage Turner. The case offers every state the impetus and opportunity to self-assess the accessibility and due process sufficiency of how they handle their self-represented cases — including deciding which cases can not fairly proceed as self-represented. In particular, it provides a reason for newly-empowered access to justice commissions to take the lead in proposing changes that will be consistent with Turner’s mandate. This is the umbrella under which the wide range of existing best practices can be promoted and expanded. Examples are Justice Corps, judicial education, Unbundling, statewide hotlines, plain language form document assembly.
- Explore Triage. Getting and acting on better data on who needs what level of service is agreed by many as the key to a viable 100% access strategy. The emerging research into impact of offers of representation is one major element of this strategy, but it will need much more, including finding out how to make these choices case by case, and who should make them.
- Promote Simplification. With courts, legal aid and bar all facing financial crises, the only way out I can see is to make each case cheaper, and the only way I can see to do this is to make the underlying process simpler. I’d like to see access commissions leading the debate about how to do this, but its going to be hard to do it in a way that transcends short term interest in the status quo. Everyone can help by starting to talk this approach up.
- Strengthen Institutional Leadership. This is both a national and state issue. Its encouraging to see DOJ, NCSC, the Chiefs, SJI and LSC playing larger roles. Lets hope that they strengthen the links between them. This is as much as staff as a board or leadership issue. Similarly, we need more state commissions and for existing commissions to become more active on a variety of issues. Lets hope the resources can be found.