As every reader of this blog knows, the Access Resolution passed by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators is important not only because of its endorsement of the “aspirational goal” of 100% access to justice services, but because of its explicit call for each state Access to Justice Commission (or equivalent) to develop a strategic plan with “realistic and measurable outcomes.”
Now, in an announcement from Massachusetts Chief Justice Ralph Gants and California Court of Appeal Associate Justice Laurie Zelon, the National Center for Stare Courts tells us of the launch, with funding from the Public Welfare Foundation, of the Justice For All Project. To quote the (reformatted by me) key paragraph from the announcement:
. . . The project will develop a state assessment/inventory and strategic action plan template and guidance materials to assist states in their planning;
[A]ward grants to targeted states using an RFP process, for assistance with state assessment/strategic action planning; and
Provide funding for technical assistance to address specific state access needs.
The Project will be in the care of an Advisory Group, representing a broad range of leaders committed to access innovation and implementation, an Expert Working Group reflecting very broad knowledge and experience in the field, committed liaisons to CCJ and COSCA, and a skilled and expert staff consisting of Tom Clarke and Shelly Spacec Miller (NCSC) and Katherine Alteneder (SRLN). The members of these groups are listed in full in the announcement. (Disclosure: I was involved in discussions about the conceptualizing of this project, and am honored to serve on the Expert Working Group.)
The announcement promises more details and a “likely RFP target date of May 2016.”
Indeed, “[a]ll states are encouraged to mobilize their partners in the access to justice community to begin the journey to implement the Resolution.” With the RFP for funding states to work on their assessment/strategic action plans coming so soon, preliminary work would surely make sense.
To my mind, this is a very important step. It is one thing to announce a goal, but very different to develop the tools needed to move forward, and to provide the resources that will help states fulfill that goal. I think the process of developing the template and guide for assessment and strategic planning will show us how much we have learned in the last 15 years, and also help focus us on the issues that will need further attention. I would very much hope that as we learn from this planning and subsequent deployment, we will be able to use that experience to further improve the tools.
Special thanks, of course, to funder Public Welfare Foundation, and law firm DLA Piper, which will be providing pro bono research and technical assistance.