Tools for SRL Courtroom Observation Project

I am delighted to be able to post the excellent instruments used in the Brooklyn Family Court SRL observational study, which is part of the Justice Index Project of the National Center for Access to Justice.

As you may know, this project is observing and recording whether Judicial Officers are taking recommended steps to ensure access according to the “engaged” model for judging, and will assess whether the use of these techniques has an impact on satisfaction.

From the Courtroom Observation Form, below are some of the items that were looked for.

Did the Judicial Officer:

Frame the hearing by stating why the parties are in court
Explain the right to be represented by an attorney and get an explicit waiver (e.g., “I will speak for myself.”)
Explain the relevant legal context within which the matter will be decided
Give one or both parties the opportunity to consent to some part of the process
Explain the courtroom process to the litigants
Ask questions to draw out relevant information from litigant(s)
Use the hearing to attempt to get the parties to reach agreement
Rule from the bench
Explain the ruling
Use technical legal terms without explaining them in English
Explain the next steps in the process at the end of the hearing
 If one side was represented by counsel, [r]aise an issue on behalf of the unrepresented litigant
 If one side was represented by counsel, [a]llow counsel to frustrate the self-represented litigant’s attempts to present evidence through the use of evidentiary objections
 Lose her or his composure by raising her or his voice with a litigant or otherwise showing irritation or displeasure with a litigantIt should be noted that the form allows for comments, and collects other data about the case.

The Litigant Satisfaction interview includes the opportunity to agree or disagree with the statements below

1.  The judge had the information needed to make good decisions

2.  The judge cared about my case

3.  The judge did not treat me with courtesy and respect

4.  The judge listened to my side before deciding

5.  The court’s process required me to waste time today

6.  In my case, the judge treated all sides the same

7.  The way my case was handled was fair

8The judge allowed me to say what I needed to say about my case

9.  I understand what happened in my case today

10.  I did not understand some of the legal words used in court today

11.  The judge was well prepared for my case

12.  The judge explained the decision (if the judge made a decision)

13.  The outcome of the hearing was favorable to me

14.  As I leave the courthouse, I do not know what to do next

15.  My case has taken too long to get completed

16.  I needed language interpreter services that were not available

Even before we have research results, I believe that these instruuments will be a powerful tool to sensitive judges to the impact of their management of the courtroom.

I would love to see these same instruments used in other jurisdictions — combining would provide some powerful additional data.  It would be particularly powerful to use them when the impacts of other innovations are being researched

Rights to the Instruments are reserved, but authorization is granted for use by courts by languge on the linked attachments.  The contact is David Udell, Executive Director, NCAJ, udell(at)yu.edu.  The instruments were drafted by John Greacen.

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About richardzorza

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