Could Volvo’s No Death Goal Show The Way for Access to Justice Innovation

I recently discovered that Volvo Cars has set a zero death goal for its new cars by 2020.

Our vision is that no one is killed or injured in a new Volvo by 2020,” the chief of governmental affairs is reported to have sad.  Whether or not they actually achieve the specifics of that goal is less important than the fact that by setting such a goal, and doing so publicly, they change their whole system from thinking day to day, or year to year, to where they really want to be.  (More on the vision here.)  Interestingly, it turns out that a bit less than 20 years ago Sweden set as a goal that “Nobody should be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system so this is also an example of corporate culture following governmental policy.

So the obvious question is this:  What similar realistic, but challenging goals could we set for access to justice — goals that would require long term strategic thinking, and that recognize that system problems require systemic solutions.  Different organizations should set such component goals for themselves.

Indeed, Katherine Alteneder of SRLN has already promised here, that:  “The Self-Represented Litigation Network, leading advocates for an accessible and integrated justice system, has made a commitment to help facilitate the development of self-help centers in every state by 2020, and to ignite local and regional dialogues on how to connect self-represented litigants with attorneys providing limited scope services.”

More generally, how about these as such goals:

  • No unintentional defaults in our court — no one abandons a case without making an informed decision
  • Every case and situation with significant non-lawyer caseload has a plain English and easy to use free online form system
  • All judges have been fully trained in handling self-represented cases, including having the opportunity to see themselves on video
  • All states have an Access to Justice Commission or Equivalent
  • Every jurisdiction has an accessible and functioning referral system for unbundling cases
  • Every court has self-help services
  • Every state has a funding system for when judges find a right to counsel not covered by existing funding mechanisms
  • Every Rules Committee has an expert on self-represented cases.

The Justice Index can help us establish, and monitor movement towards, such goals.  But establishment of such goals is clearly in part a national leadership and state partnership function.

I have deliberately avoided listed what should be really the overall goal — no cases wrongly decided because of lack of access help — because that seems too huge — but then Volvo’s goal seems pretty massive from here.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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4 Responses to Could Volvo’s No Death Goal Show The Way for Access to Justice Innovation

  1. Pingback: No Death Goals (Volvo) and Access to Justice? | Oregon Legal Research Blog

  2. Pingback: A Humorous Aside on Car Safety Technology — Back Seat Driver Assist and More | Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

  3. Claudia says:

    If everyone who interacts with those trying to resolve civil legal needs on their own commits to making incremental changes to create an easier, shorter, simpler process and tools to resolve issues–access to justice would be served. Here is an example of a change implemented despite significant budget cuts. Inspirational!

  4. Mary Ryan says:

    Educating the judges to view litigants – regardless of whether or not they are represented – to view every case without prejudice is fundamental. If judges have departed from this, then there is something seriously awry. After all, under 28 U.S.C. 453 Oath of judges and justices appears to point to what you are hoping to achieve.
    “Each justice or judge of the United States shall take the following oath or affirmation before performing the duties of his office: “I, XXX XXX, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as XXX under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”

    Equally as important, educating each and every citizen with the knowledge of their Constitutional rights, including their right to represent themselves, is also fundamental. The Judicial Act of 1789 makes it clear that a citizen can represent themselves. Our Rhode Island Constitution also provides: Article XII Section 1. Duty of general assembly to promote schools and libraries. —

    “The diffusion of knowledge, as well as of virtue among the people, being essential to the preservation of their rights and liberties, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public schools and public libraries, and to adopt all means which it may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education and public library services.”

    We here in Rhode Island certainly spend TONS of money on Education. In addition, President Obama’s request for $68.6 BILLION dollars reflects the priorities of our government when it comes to civic education…hmmm, unless I’m missing something, civic education doesn’t appear to be a big priority. Perhaps I’ve overlooked something. We spend BILLIONS of dollars quite literally. So, there is ample evidence to point to the fact that we already have everything we need in place to accomplish most of the recommended goals, all of which is amply funded – not to mention the budget for legal service for those who can’t afford, but also don’t want to represent themselves for their own reasons. Choosing not to represent oneself should be a “choice” and not a necessity. In any event, If the citizens of the United States have become so uneducated and are completely dependent on a mediator (attorney) to be able to exercise their First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights to petition the government’s judicial branch and receive due process – something is to terribly wrong. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and others have tried to highlight the problem.To her credit, she’s tried to enter the world of young children and poured energy into developing computer games to foster civics education. Some of us have been screaming the same for years. We have no interest in competing with attorneys, just empowering citizens to act on their own if they so choose and for the judiciary, which we all finance, to uphold their oath and to preserve the rights of all. I believe that if we are this far removed from the fundamental rights that our Constitution provides, my recommendation then, is to say its time to go back to square one. Not more funding but education which fosters a citizen’s knowledge of their Constitutional rights – whether young or elderly.

    Respectfully –
    Mary Ryan.

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