The more I think and talk with folks about the proposed single measure for access to justice, the more I think we might be on to something that could tell us what we want to know, would allow for comparison of innovations and even of the state of access in a wide variety of contexts, procedural systems, and cases.
The measure, to put it simply, would be:
The percentage of people for whom the facts and law are sufficiently before the decision-maker that the case can be decided on the facts and the law.
For steps prior to completion of the consideration by the decision-maker:
The percentage of people for whom, assuming the remaining steps function appropriately, the previously completed steps have been such that the case will ultimately, if completed, have had the facts and law sufficiently before the decision-maker that the case will have been decided on the facts and the law.
The primary method for calculating this score would be to interview the person and come up with a yes/no assessment. That interview, remember, would be very like a normal intake interview conducted by an attorney, exploring the same areas, and with the same thoroughness.
So, for cases decided after hearing, the review would be whether the decision-maker actually heard the evidence needed to make an appropriate decision. For cases decided without hearing, the review would be of whatever paperwork (or tech equivalent) had been gathered.
For measuring the ATJ score of earlier steps, the reviewer would compare the information that had been gathered, with that needed to provide a sufficient chance that the information would ultimately be gathered. (This is slightly flexible, because it might be, for example, that judges in one court were known to be really good at exploring matters. In such a court, lack of completeness in forms would have less on an impact on the scoring.)
Notwithstanding this, the forms example helps show how powerful this measure could be for assessing innovations and changes. A new form draft would be tested by being given to half of a group, and comparison of the scores for those using the new form and the old one would be a simple measure of its impact.
Indeed, in this example, one could measure both the actual form alone, and the access score of the combination of the form and the hearing. The comparison of the after hearing scores would be a measure on the impact on access a whole, and therefore ultimately more important. (The study protocol would require that different test and control groups would be needed, because the research interview would distort subsequent results.) The post-form research result would be completed more quickly, and could be used in the ongoing development process.
The measure is intentionally simple, and as such runs risks, fixable actually, of lack of consistency. But the simplicity is a very important feature and researchers have many methods for ensuring consistency among reviewers. Moreover, the simple yes/no conclusion could be supplemented or even replaced by a more precise assessment tools, but all leading to that final encasement.
What this process does not measure is the percentage of people with justiciable issues who in fact do seek redress and get into the funnel above. Nor does it measure the “justice” of the ultimate result, or ultimate compliance. But the point is that these will need to be measured differently,and then all three integrated.
p.s. I am sure that a process like this would provide very useful information to use in improving judicial education.