Nice to Get ABA Journal Award

The AB Journal now does a Web 100 list honoring “the best of lawyers and the law on the web.”  They have included this blog this year on their list.  The logo signifying this award is on the right side of this blog.

Quoting the blog, they describe it as follows (its hard to find, under R for Richard, on page 2 of the blogs only list):

“We define access to justice broadly to include innovations in courts, the bar, legal aid and community that make it easier for people to obtain access to justice institutions, and to just results within those institutions.” Posts cover a broad range of subjects, including access to counsel, foreclosures, self-service, law schools and technology.

The recognition is much appreciated.  I hope that there will many access to justice tools soon.

Remember, all my blogs are listed here.

Posted in ABA, Access to Justice Generally, Technology, This Blog | 4 Comments

Roberts Choice of Garland to Head Executive Committee of Federal Judicial Conference is a Huge ATJ Opportunity

In what many would consider a “class act,” Chief Justice Roberts recently appointed Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Judge Garland to chair the Executive Committee of the Federal Judicial Conference.

As the release explains:

The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system. By statute the Chief Justice of the United States serves as its presiding officer and its members are the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The Conference meets twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system, and to make recommendations to Congress concerning legislation involving the Judicial Branch. 

This is obviously a potentially very broad remit indeed.  Given Judge Garland’s well known and longstanding committement to access to justice, I am certain that he will want to use this opportunity to advance a broad Federal Court access agenda.

Here, for example, is what LSC President Jim Sandman said at the time of Garland’s nomination to the Court.

I do not know a finer person than Merrick Garland.  .  .  .   He gave a magnificent speech at the LSC reception at the Supreme Court last April, and he has attended every one of our White House forums on Increasing Access to Justice.  He is deeply committed to the rule of law and access to justice.

Here are some of my prior blogs on access to justice and the Federal Courts (some more opinionated than others.)

I would welcome thoughts on how the  Judicial Conference could advance access to justice, particularly with a broad focus on a multi-element agenda, as supported by the general public.


Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Federal Courts, LSC

Simply Brilliant — Florida Bar Foundation and SRLN Maps Show Hurricane Impacts and Legal Vulnerability

I do not think of myself as someone who “gushes” about every innovation, but this is so wonderful.

If you were ever skeptical about the value of mapping and GIS for access to justice, just look at these and change your mind.

The link shows the whole story of the hurricane, all the way through to the scale of legal vulnerability across the state.

Here are two of the many maps, the physical impact, and the impact on the legal vulnerable:



The overlap is astonishing, and crystal clear from comparing these two.

The Legal Vulnerability Index is itself a fascinating idea, and one that has many potential implications.  Below is the way it was calculated for Miami-Dade:


These three slides are only a tiny subset of the visualized data, which also include Federal response.  Do look at the whole document, which is here.  Ask yourself how this approach can help with 100% access planning.

Congrats to SRLN (map gallery) and FBF.




Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Census Bureau, Legal Aid, Mapping/GIS, Research and Evalation, SRLN, Technology

Thoughts on the Shriver Study

It is now several months since the California Shriver Pilot Report was issued.  The findings and recommendations concerning benefits of counsel have been widely disseminated. (Report announcement summary here)

So, I want to here highlight some of the findings that have gotten less attention and may be of use in 100% system design.  I would urge that these are of equal value.

Triage (at page 7)

Limited attorney resources are used most effectively with well-designed triage systems. Such systems are critical to the smooth functioning of the continuum of service. In order to use limited attorney resources most effectively, referral mechanisms were established to try to ensure that litigants received the appropriate level of assistance, consistent with individual need. The range of services comprising the “continuum of service” included self- help assistance for those who would remain self-represented, limited-scope legal assistance for those who would receive legal assistance for a part of their case (“unbundling”), and full legal representation. The continuum of service involved all key stakeholders—the court, legal aid programs, and other nonprofits and government entities.

Self-Help Centers (at page 8)

Expanded court-based self-help centers are a critical piece of the continuum of service. They provide self-help assistance for those who will be self-represented and also can help in the triage process of getting litigants to the level of help they need, whether it is limited- scope legal assistance or full legal representation. A key example of an effective court-based self-help service is the probate facilitator, who provided an effective service, enabling parties to navigate the complex guardianship process in a timely, cost-effective way, benefitting families and the court.


E-Filling (at page 8)

The improved use of technology, including the expansion of e-filing, can help facilitate the efficient handling of cases when accommodations are made for those without access to technology. Particularly in landlord-tenant cases, where e-filing had previously only been available to landlords at one site, the expansion of e-filing to tenants helped facilitate the efficient handling of these cases. The increased use of document assembly software programs that make it easier to prepare court documents is more efficient and enables self- represented litigants to better represent themselves.

The project team are to be praised for remembering that access to justice is a complex ecosystem in which improvement in one part of the system leverages and enhances those in others.

One of the interesting questions is how the role of the self help center changes if and when there is greater counsel funding.

Another is how the triage rules change.


Posted in Access to Counsel, Access to Justice Generally, Court Management, Document Assembly, E-filing, Legal Aid, Self-Help Services

Oral History Interview Fragment: Future of Access to Justice

Last week, I was honored to be interviewed by Alan Houseman for the oral history project of the National Equal Justice Library.

I will be posting fragments that folks might find useful.

This first one actually comes near the end of the full interview, and is my attempt an an overview of my perspective on the future of access to justice.

I hope you find it useful, perhaps as a stimulant to discussion.  It is a little over 12 mins long.

Posted in Access to Justice Generally, History, Legal Aid, LSC, Non-Lawyer Practice, Referral Systems, Systematic Change, video | 2 Comments

That Defendant Gates Is Looking for a Lawyer Can Only Mean that a New Conflict With Manafort has Now Become Clear

This is really weird.  A defendant in a very high profile case, Gates, goes into court today essentially without a lawyer and has a public defender stand up for him on a very short term basis.  Its not a cost issue, because he, Gates, had promised to pay the PD’s costs.

So, there are only two possible explanations:  That Gates did not realize that he has any legal exposure, or that Gates has previously been represented, officially or not, by Manafort’s lawyer.  The first is manifestly impossible.

That leads us to the question as to why Gates only figured out that he needed his own lawyer this morning.

I can only imagine two scenarios — either that the lawyer only realized that the interests of the two defendants were in conflict today or that the prosecutor pulled the Assist US attorney aside and warned the private attorney that a motion to dismiss him from the case (maybe both defendants) would be made immediately.

If the initiative came from the private lawyer, then the question is what in the indictment showed a conflict that he did not know exist before, and why did he not know it.

In any event, this is bad news for the Trump gang, and maybe even worse news going forward.

Anyone want to reread the indictment with this in mind?



Posted in Attorney-Client, Criminal Law, Defender Programs, Dept. of Justice, Federal Courts, Legal Aid, Legal Ethics

Guest Post From Claudia Johnson On Washington ATJ Plan Including Racial Equity

Claudia writes: (Sorry for the Richard Zorza delay here in publishing.)

The Access to Justice Board of WA State just adopted a new State plan for the Delivery of Legal Services for the 2018 to 2020 working period. It is is an impressive and timely plan that describes priorities to “expand access to our civil justice system and identify and eliminate barriers that perpetuate poverty and deny justice”.

This plan was developed taking empirical data and findings into account. .

The goals for these next few years center around  Goal #1: Race Equity.

This goal calls for all organizations providing civil legal services to create a shared awareness and understanding of what is needed to achieve race equity.  As far as I know–this is the first time ever in the past 10 years-that a state planning documents puts race equity at the center of all of its goals. Removing disparate outcomes and aligning organizations’ race and equity justice goals will not be easy–but it an issue that cries out for attention, whose time has come, and that if done across systems will greatly reduce the disparities by race and ethnicity of negative outcomes and increase opportunities to achieve justice for all.

The other goals that reinforce goal #1 and each other are:

Goal# 2  Legal Awareness and Education

Goal #3 Access for Underserved communities

Goal #4–Holistic Client Centered Services

Goal #5–Systemic Advocacy

The most exciting part of this plan is that it is centered and anchored in conversations around race and equal opportunity–and brings back into our conversations race equity. Failure to focus our efforts on race equity and to have conversations about how race is determinative of most outcomes has led to drastic consequences for our society, our communities,and our system of justice.

Each goal has discussion, with specific strategies and implementation steps that each and every group can use to align their work and resources to achieve these goals.

Other groups doing state planning  should take a look at the document–and consider if there are similar priorities in your state–based on needs and population and see if they could achieve consensus in tackling systematic race and equity issues as a priority for the next 3-5 years.

This Plan  should inspire other states, Access to Justice Commissions, and legal services planners and planning groups,  to have these needed conversations, look at the data in their states,  and make commitments to understand and then tackle race based inequities  in the our civil justice and legal system.

Congratulations to the Alliance for Justice of WA state, the Washington State Bar, OCLA and everyone who worked to complete a well thought out, innovative, and responsive state plan!

Thank you to all who worked for months on this and now give us this plan and these priorities. The end result is on target and inspiring.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Access to Justice Generally