The Justice for All Strategic Planing and Guidance, being used by the seven grantee states, and others on a more informal basis, includes a number of key components. (List at page 5 in cover Memo.) One of the most important is for Forms. I have, totally personally, and in no way on behalf of any group, but in the hope it may be helpful, prepared what is really a draft forms Steps Analysis for the Forms Component. I would very much appreciate any thoughts on whether such Step Analyses are potentially helpful, and particularly what additional information and ideas might be helpful. Let me know.
Steps for JFA Forms Component
- Update the list of all needed forms for standard processes in this area, as well as whether they exist in paper, as downloadable, or as online interactive software.
- Check who has legal authority to promulgate forms and require acceptance thereof statewide. (Note that “mandated acceptance” is not the same as “required to be used.”) Actual or Perceived lack of authority would constitute a major barrier to deployment, and would require, in the case of this component, a high priority and high level intervention.
- Have the Promulgation Authority appoint a committee to recommend forms with a specific final forms submission deadline, not to exceed 3 months. The chair should be highly respected, preferably a high level judge. The committee should include all the major stakeholders, have staff support, and have budget for consultation of experts on plain language and design. Subcommittees should be established for each substantive area.
- The Order establishing the Committee should mandate that the Committee include in its process the following: consideration of whether all information collected is needed;consideration of whether additional information might be needed; hiring of plain language consultant, minimizing the number of forms and filing steps; user testing of draft forms, and Court testing of draft forms (by clerk and judge).
- The Promulgating Authority should obtain public comment on proposed forms. A relatively short period is suggested, perhaps 30 days, unless more is required by law. Exploration and costing of fully automated interactive forms can begin here, but is not required for completion of this component.
- Incorporate suggestions as appropriate, and proceed to final promulgation and online posting. Exploration and costing of fully automated interactive forms can be finalized here.
- Train court staff in how to make sure that litigants are able to make as great as possible use of the forms, and so that they know the extent to which they can assist people (see here for information.)
- Perform community outreach so that forms availability and ease of use is known.
- Establish on-going process for regular review for court and user comments, change in law, or other needed changes.
I can not emphasize enough that the first question is whether there is an entity with statewide authority to mandate acceptance of form by all courts. In its absence, such authority MUST be obtained, or most effort will be wasted.