There are lots of reasons why we really do not have in place anything like a national campaign for 100% access (Although we have certainly become much better at talking about the need). One of the reasons for the lack of a clear campaign is that we have not had focused agreement, beyond the very general term, on what achieving such access would actually require, what it would look like, or how the process might be led and managed.
That all changed a few weeks ago. Look at this from the Conference of Chiefs/Conference of State Court Administrators Resolution.
WHEREAS, significant advances in creating a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services to secure effective assistance for essential civil legal needs have been made by state courts, national organizations, state Access to Justice Commissions and other similar bodies, and state bar associations during the last decade; and
WHEREAS, these advances include, but are not limited to, expanded self-help services to litigants, new or modified court rules and processes that facilitate access, discrete task representation by counsel, increased pro bono assistance, effective use of technology, increased availability of legal aid services, enhanced language access services, and triage models to match specific needs to the appropriate level of services;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators support the aspirational goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs. . .
You pretty much have it there. This is what we need, and this is the service continuum that will get it there.
So with that, and with the endorsement in the Resolution, for each state of a “strategic plan with realistic and measurable outcomes,” and with the endorsement of both judicial leadership and the planning role of access to justice commissions or equivalent, you have the goal, the method, and the leadership basically outlined, and you have something we can all rally around, contribute to, and organize in support of. While there is lots to fill in, we are so much more in unison now.
The campaign to achieve what the Chiefs and COSCA have laid out will include many elements, including pilots and innovation, strategic planning, research, public communication, legislative campaigns, coalition outreach beyond the legal system, and above all creating a narrative of feasibility. Above all, we must always hammer home that this is not a hopeless dream, rather it is something that requires change and commitment, but is far cheaper, far more practical, and far more achievable than we thought a few years ago, when we focused on the cost of counsel for all, rather than that as one element in a much larger continuum of services. Some, but far from all, of these elements are in place, but they can now be so much more effective when they are seen as part of the campaign to achieve the overall goal of the CCJ/COSCA resolution.
And, while I do not know what phrase we want, let alone if “100% access to justice” is the right one, I do know that we need a phrase that describes this campaign that resonates for everyone, of every party, and every stakeholder interest. Finding a phrase will much easier now that we have near consensus that no one service solution will realistically be best for everyone who suffers an access barrier. See,for example, the comment by John Pollock of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel to this post, a comment that, as a general matter, takes this tack (It is the bottom comment to the post.)
Every organization and constituency should be thinking how they can be part of that campaign, and indeed what phrase will make their participation easiest and most effective.