It is great news that the recently released Justice Index is getting strong media.
As we think about the reaction, I have some suggestions about ideas for improvement and next steps. As you know, David Udell and the project vey much welcome an ongoing debate about new ideas, which can be submitted here. Indeed, some of these suggestions might be more appropriate for other organizations to use to build on the Index’s architecture, creating a Justice Index Community.
A Fifth Index – the Innovation Index
This would be measures of the extent to which the state has in place a successful and effective infrastructure for the identification, testing, support and replication of innovation in access to justice. Among some the score-able items might be: State innovation funds, discretionary component of IOLTA funding, grant-application office, system for other state identification of best practices, ATJ Commission or equivalent, has received or applied for a grant from LS-TIG or SJI in past five years.
Costing Out Individually What It Would Take to Bring Each Component to the Standard of the Index
This would obviously be helpful to state stake holders in making decisions. It would be similarly be helpful to national planners in deciding which areas to emphasize and incentivize. Obviously, the cost would vary with poverty population (and possibly other scores.)
Developing a Way of Analyzing How Much Impact on Overall Access Each Improvement Would Bring
This is actually the key to making the index a true system triage tool for decision makers.
Developing, Based on These, a Way of Recommending Which Changes Would Be Most Cost Effective in Increasing Access.
This derives simply from the two above.
Making it Possible for States to Launch State Analogs for Local Decision-Making in the State Context
Whether this is needed would depend on whether money and decisions are regionalized. Ideally a template tool would guide states through the process of building a state-specific tool
Doing “Big Data” Correlations with Other Variables
As some of the group that developed the index are already discussing, there are some wonderful opportunities for correlating index scores with issues like housing stability, child support compliance, food stamp penetration. Actually, what is most interesting is whether things are getting better (or worse more slowly) in states with high index scores.
Moreover, one could correlate index scores with things like whether there is an ATJ Commission in the state, and whether the court system or community legal aid system is integrated. Correlation does not prove causation, but it can start a systematic inquiry.
This whole approach and the Index can be one of the foundational tools of the access to justice reform agenda.