I am just back from Vancouver and the Canadian Bar Association Envisioning Equal Justice Summit. My main conclusion is that the Canadians and the US are now on very similar and potentially supportive paths.
The Summit was brought together to highlight and reflect upon several reports being generated on access issues. There is one on simplification (link not yet available), one on triage, one on legal aid, and one on family justice. These reports were generated in response to a speech to the Canadian Bar in 2012 by their Chief Justice.
For me, the highlights were:
- A wonderful poverty simulation, based on this one. (biggest memory for me: the participant who reported that he did well in the simulation because of “luck,” not skill.) Apparently the simulation does not usually include a legal aid office — hmm –although they added it for this one.
- The interest in developing access to justice Commission equivalents for the Canadian Provinces. (Steve Grumm, newly at the ABA, spoke at a plenary.)
- The fact that triage, simplification, judicial education for self-represented cases are on the developing agenda.
- Conceptions of triage that deal with services long before litigation, built in part on research on the breadth of legal need before litigation.
- The clear support from the judiciary for access.
- How similar the discussion about how to handle self-represented litigants in the court room is in the US and Canada.
- That some Canadian courts are able to provide services similar to those in the US, but that the systems of referral and non-legal assistance seem more robust, given the strength of their social service system.
- A debate on whether to advocate for a national system of “justice care,” analogous to their health care system. While the political circumstances are very different, the lessons from this debate may help inform our emerging conversation about how to do more for middle income people excluded from the system.
I like to think that there may be opportunities for cross-border cooperation, particularly in areas of research, such as into judicial communication with the self-represented, networking among access commissions or equivalents, the development of new ideas for triage and simplification, and, of course, technology, which is always cheaper whens costs can be spread over a larger number of partners.