Back abut a thousand years ago, on September 15, 2016, an important Symposium on indicators was organized by Risa Kaufman and David Udell. They jointly blogged about it yesterday:
On September 15, 2016, access to justice experts from the academic and nonprofit communities gathered for a Consultation with U.S. government officials to recommend “access to justice indicators” to guide data collection for tracking and promoting access to justice in the United States.
The Consultation, the first held between U.S. government officials and civil society experts on access to justice indicators, is a step towards U.S. implementation of Goal 16 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.
Participating in the Consultation were fifteen officials from agencies in the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (WH-LAIR), as well as thirty access to justice experts from the academic and nonprofit communities.
The bloggers point out that this process can help in:
- Prioritizing “access to justice” as a societal goal, and establishing the relationship between access to justice and poverty reduction
- Creating incentives for federal, state, and local officials to expand access to justice
- Producing data and findings that empower reformers to expand access to justice in public institutions and in areas of law and policy in which they possess expertise
- Building a field of research (and researchers) on access to justice
- Expanding sources of funding for civil legal aid, indigent defense services, and courts
- Implementing the “100% access to effective legal assistance” resolution adopted in 2015 by Chief Justices and Chief Court Administrators, and
- Strengthening human rights treaty reviews and the Universal Periodic Review with respect to barriers to access to justice in the United States.
Perhaps the most important short term output of the gathering will be this set of suggestions for indicators at both the specific and general level offered by the speakers (of which I was one.)
My own overview tended to the reaction that this is a very valuable beginning, but one that needs much work to create an integrated picture. It is to be hoped that even while that integrated picture is being developed, individual Federal agencies will start to look at the information they are gathering so that they will be able to focus on making available to the public that information that is considered most important.
I think that those looking at the whole pack will find it very useful in analyzing the kinds of information that are thought to be useful, rather than just a list of data fields. Among those are:
- Information about services and assistance actually provided to obtain access to justice
- Measures of need (in terms of what services would meet those needs)
- Measures of ways that services are provided
- Measures of impact of success and failure to meet those needs
- Measures of outcomes in the systems at issue
- Measures of costs of participation in systems of access and decision-making
I will blog in more detail about the thoughts I developed in response to the challenge of creating an integrated system of data and an integrated measure for access to justice in the future.
In any event, this process will go on, nationally and internationally. It is just likely to have different players playing roles with different emphasis.
For the time being, I would just underline that we have to involve litigants in the process of deciding what measures are important. Few of the papers submitted, including mine, showed evidence of such an effort.