The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1790, so they can hardly be called a fad. So it is surely of some meaning when they decide it is worth spending a couple of days paying attention to the problem of access to justice. While the “Making Justice Accessible” Symposium held last week operated under rules generally forbidding attribution of comments, I am able to convey my general sense of the conversation and my sense of its implications.
The first obvious point is that when State Chief Justices, Federal Court trila and appellate Judges, academics, LSC, ABA retired presidents, the US Department of Justice, and community-based legal aid program staffers gather for two intense days at the national level, that alone marks a recognition of the issue.
My second take-away is that there is now a very broad leadership consensus in support of the Chiefs 100% Resolution, including the understand that moving towards that goal requires triage, a continuum of services, many innovative, including those delivered through technology, strategic planning, and the measurement of outcomes.
My third take-away that there is an increasing understanding that regulatory flexibility in support of access to justice may well be both appropriate and required. It’s now OK to talk about real changes in the regulatory environment in ways that were not true even very recently.
My fourth take away is that many of the non-legal aid participants were impressed by the range of engaged innovations that are going on in access to justice.
Personally, I would hope that recognition by the Academy of the importance of the issue, and of the extent to which innovations and new ways of thinking are justifying a fresh look at the problem by national leaders, will cause funders and policy makers to do just that. Indeed, the speech by Congressman Kennedy, about which I previously blogged, shows the extent to which this is already true.
While no one should have general or specific expectations, stay tuned, as a planning process for consideration of possible additional steps by the Academy moves forward.
Among the possibilities might be analysis of possibilities of enhancing leadership coordination, a focus on research, bringing non-legal communities into the access movement.
One idea that appeals to me particularly is engagement with economists to enrich our understanding of the relationship between access to justice and the economy, and of how incentives might be used to improve our delivery systems, including their relationship to the private bar.