The Ohio Supreme Court Task Force on Access to Justice has included among other great proposals, a new and exciting idea in its Recommendations, which would be to require an “Access to Justice Impact Statement” before any changes in the Ohio Rules of Court.
5. DEVELOPMENT OF AN ACCESS TO JUSTICE IMPACT STATEMENT RECOMMENDATION
The Task Force recommends that the Supreme Court require that an “access to justice impact statement” be filed with any proposed amendment to the Ohio Rules of Court.
Ohio law currently provides that a fiscal analysis be submitted to the General Assembly for every proposed bill or resolution.34 This is because fiscal impact statements are critical to ensure that any legislator voting on a particular bill has sufficient information to evaluate the bill’s full impact; for example, whether adopting a bill might require defunding a competing program. Similarly, the Revised Code provides that the Ohio Judicial Conference may prepare a “judicial impact statement” for the General Assembly when a bill or resolution “appears to affect the revenues or expenditures of the courts of Ohio, to increase or decrease the workload or caseload of judges or members of their staffs, or to affect case disposition.” R.C. 105.911. Through these measures, the General Assembly ensures that its members have the fullest information available on the full impact of a bill before they vote on its passage.
Similarly, the Supreme Court should require that the Access to Justice Director prepare an “access to justice” impact statement for any proposed change to the Ohio Rules of Courts. In the same manner that the legislative budget office may seek information from any department, institution, board, commission, authority or other instrumentality or officer of the state, county or other governmental entity,so too may the Access to Justice Director request information from any state or local governmental entity, court, nonprofit entity, for-profit entity or any proponent of a change to the Ohio Rules of Courts. The “access to justice” impact statement shall address the likely number of Ohioans impacted by the proposed change; whether the change will increase or decrease access to Ohio’s courts for low-income Ohioans; what impact, if any, the proposed change will have on Ohio’s minority populations’ access to the courts; and, what impact, if any, the proposed change will have on the ability of Ohioans with limited English proficiency to access justice. In this way, the Court and its boards and commissions will have the fullest information possible as to the effect of a proposed rule change prior to adopting or rejecting it.
This is truely an excellent idea. Every state should do this.
I would add the suggestion that all Court Committees should have a member assigned to carry the access perspective into the deliberations of the Committee.
I would also hope that Ohio would develop, and other states would adopt, a template for such an impact statement and for the process that would guide the preparation of the statement. I would offer that national folks would be very happy to help with the brainstorming of that template.
Many of us wold love to see the Federal government adopt a similar process for changes in Federal agency processes, and for changes in state agency processes funded by the Feds. This has been suggested in a prior blog about the power of the phone and the pen.
There have been prior similar suggestions in Canada (at p 28), and Australia (at p. 6).