This is a great model, with the opportunity dramatically to focus attention on the quality of access for the self-represented in the courtroom. A partnership of the National Center for Access to Justice, Pfizer’s Legal Alliance, 15 law firms, and the Brooklyn Family Court. The consultant is John Greacen.
Here is the key para from the National Law Journal article:
The 15-minute hearing was just like hundreds of matters that Kings County, N.Y., family court judges hear every day, except it was being observed and recorded by two aspiring lawyers. University of Michigan Law School student Sara Winik and Georgetown University Law Center student Adam Lovell sat in the rear of the courtroom clutching clipboards and spreadsheets. They noted whether the magistrate explained the reason for the hearing and the courtroom process or exhibited irrigation with litigants. Afterward, Winik and Lovell ducked into the hallway to conduct brief one-on-one interviews with litigants, gauging whether they felt the proceeding was fair and whether they understood what happened in the courtroom and why.
This is the opportunity for courts to really take a look at what’s actually going on in courtrooms, and specifically the extent to which access-friendly practices are being followed in the court and their impact on litigant perceptions. See, e.g., the SRLN memo on such practices being incorporated into the comments to state codes of judicial conduct.
I very much hope that this will be a rapidly spreading national model.
More info on David Udell’s blog.