The Trump Endgame Is Going To Be About the Intersection of Political and Legal Contexts, Which Together Will Work To Speed the Process

There are several reasons why the received wisdom about the speed of the Trump removal process may be completely wrong.  Not surprisingly, most of the reasons relate as much to the political as to the legal context.

One:  Perhaps most importantly, unlike in prior impeachment situations, even this early, almost everyone in Washington really wants Trump gone.  There are literally only about 50 people for whom this is not true.  The difference between the parties this year is that the Democrats are not upset when people figure it out, but the Republicans are terrified about their base doing so.  (When the Republicans say they want to get all the facts out about malfeasance on their side, you know the subject of the investigation is in deep trouble.)

Two:  A prima facie case of obstruction of justice by President Trump has already been made out, most of it from his own statements and admissions.  This comes from his firing of Comey, his statement that he performed the firing because of his feelings about the Russia investigation, his statement to the Russians that he (and they) have gained from what he believed to be the successful firing.  While that alone is probably enough, there will be plenty more.  This could go to a grand jury very quickly.

Three:  This time round, no one seems to be suggesting any barriers, such as Executive Privilege or National Security, to getting the information quickly.  This is in very marked contrast to 1972 – 1974, when it took well over a year to resolve the barriers.  I think the main reason is listed in number one  above, that no one wants to protect Trump, it is just that one party does not want that fact to be too obvious.  It is also partly that Trump has waived many of the legal issues by his tweeting and statements.  I think it is less the reason for the absence of such privilege claims that the legal issues have already been resolved — US v. Nixon gave Nixon no outs, but clever lawyers have since then, with a sympathetic audience been able to find new arguments — it’s just that there is no such sympathetic audience outside the immediate Trump family and their hangers on.

Four:  It really does not matter whether a President can be indicted or not.  You just charge a conspiracy to obstruct justice, name the President as an un-indicted co-conspirator, and get all the information to Congress.  This is what happened with Nixon, in that case with the permission of the judge overseeing the grand jury (the now largely forgotten hero John Sirica.)

Five:  In today’s digital environment, not only is there additional evidence everywhere, but the process of finding and putting it in the right order will move much quicker.  In the Watergate investigation it look months to get all the interlocking evidence hand typed onto sorted color-coded index cards.  The timeline can be ready for grand jury presentation soon.

Six:  If they can get rid of Trump, the Republicans want it done as fast as possible.  This is because the other prong of the investigation, the one dealing with the underlying Russia collusion, is going to take much longer, but if successful, it is potentially much much more damaging to the legitimacy of Republican power.  If by the time we get a new President it is clear that the Democrats should or might have won without the collusion, the pressure on Pence to offer the Vice Presidency to Tim Kaine will be immense, and we will be in a period of coalition government.  If the Republicans do not accept something like this, they will be killed at the next election, whether midterms or the presidential.  Even if they do accept it, much of their radical agenda is gone.

So, almost all the rational incentives align in the same direction.

The only questions are whether the Republicans can figure this out, and if the Democrats want and are able to, can figure out how to take advantage of the alignment.

Actually, the main reason I now think that impeachment is the more likely route is that Republicans do not have to be the ones obviously triggering the process, at least until very near the end of the game.  In contrast, if they used the 25th Amendment, it would basically Republicans starting and managing the process.

But, that choice of remedy analysis assumes that new bombshell inherently destructive of Trump’s relationship with his core base comes out — and that might happen tomorrow at 5 PM.  Tax returns, anyone.

(First posted in my politics and humor blog.)

Posted in Dept. of Justice, History, Judicial Supremacy, White House | Comments Off on The Trump Endgame Is Going To Be About the Intersection of Political and Legal Contexts, Which Together Will Work To Speed the Process

Mary McClymont’s Inspiring Clarion Call

afj

Earlier today Mary McClymont, President of the Public Welfare Foundation, received the Champions for Justice Award from the Alliance for Justice.

Here are her remarks.  I have bolded the first couple of paragraphs that focus on access to justice. 

Martin and Peter, thank you for those lovely introductions. It means a lot to me especially coming from each of you.

To Nan and the Alliance for Justice, thank you so much for this generous award. And to all present, thank you so much for coming and for supporting AFJ which safeguards our federal judiciary and teaches us all how to do truly bolder advocacy.

For me, this feels like old home week with many friends, co-workers and mentors from different parts of my career in and out of philanthropy. I’m also delighted to see many of the Public Welfare grantees and of course –a very big shout out to my own stellar board members and brilliant staff colleagues. I love our team and I’m so proud of the work they do at the Foundation with our grantees.

When Nan called and said I was to receive the “champion of justice” award,  I had two thoughts: First, to be recognized for my commitment to justice is very special to me personally since all I’ve ever wanted in my career was to contribute to human rights and social justice and to do that in the good company of fellow seekers of justice, whether with a team doing prison conditions cases, or conspiring with grantees on the best way to make real change through a set of grants. You see, for me, it’s that very collaboration that makes the work especially rewarding.

The second thought I had was how humbling it is to be singled out since I know well that so many others could be up here at the podium. All of us are champions of justice, whatever our particular issue, whether we work globally or here in the US. And I believe that what makes us effective champions, especially in these treacherous times, is bringing both passion and laser focus to our particular cause.

I started my career as a lawyer, and I was asked recently how I got into philanthropy. Well, I was recruited by my boss at the CRD of the Dept. of Justice, the brilliant lawyer Lynn Walker Huntley. She had left DOJ to go to the Ford Foundation.  Lynn showed me how philanthropy could also be a place where I, a lawyer, could in fact be a social change agent for what I care about in the world. My philanthropy work thus became intertwined with the social justice work I did on the frontlines. Having the “real world” experience as an advocate was what helped me understand how to do good philanthropy. I’ve been most privileged to pursue my career in both arenas.

A key lesson I learned at Ford was how important it is for philanthropy to be willing to take on and stick with and build advocacy infrastructure around unpopular, politically difficult and intractable social justice issues–such as the scourge of racism, attacks on immigrants or the issues we focus on and stick with at PWF—destructive incarceration of massive numbers of adults and children, who are largely people of color, or unaccountable employers ripping off hard earned wages or imposing unhealthy conditions on workers—such tenacious issues, which all call for transformative change.

So many important overlooked issues to highlight, but I wanted to raise up one about which I’m especially passionate. I have worked on this in philanthropy, earlier at Ford, and, as you heard from Peter, at PWF in recent years with our wonderful grantees. It is an issue that undergirds so much of what we all work on.

What I’m talking about is the complete failure to provide basic legal help to people as they navigate our complex civil justice system on common, yet critical life issues—eviction, debt collection, domestic abuse, child custody or wage theft. The consequences are profound: without legal help on such matters, people can lose their families, their homes, and their livelihoods, be pushed further into poverty, and even wind up incarcerated.

Why else should we care? 1) the problem is enormous: Because millions of people can’t afford an attorney and have no right to counsel , in a shocking 75 percent of civil cases today in our state courts , one or both parties are going it alone in court, completely unrepresented in a system designed for lawyers. 2) They are mostly poor and people of color, mainly women. 3) The issue is virtually invisible to the public, and largely overlooked by the media, philanthropy, and policy makers. 4) Surely we all agree that a functioning justice system that enables people to protect their essential life needs is absolutely foundational to achieving the rule of law, especially in our democracy.

I ask that we bring fresh eyes to this problem and to our state court access crisis where these high stakes problems of low income people arise.

After all, there is good news: the crisis has given rise in recent years to an array of innovations to help serve more people who cannot afford a lawyer—such as assisted self-help services, online information and forms, and non-lawyer specialists. When properly coordinated and resourced, these solutions can work together to serve millions more people and make possible a system that provides effective legal help to everyone—when they need it, and in a form they can use.

There is a movement for transformative change underway which includes more than the usual suspects: The highest level—chief justices of the state courts— have recently issued a clarion call for meaningful access to justice for all using a full spectrum of these services and innovations: they have asked leaders in each state to unite across organizational boundaries to make it happen.

The vanguard of this movement has issued a rallying cry of “justice for all” and not just for those who can afford it. I hope all you champions of justice in the room will hear and join in that cry and think how you can contribute to this critical need.

Thank you.

afj2

Photos used with permission, copyright Noel St John, more at www.noelstjohn.com. (click on clients)

p.s.  Here is the story on the PWF site.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Generally | Comments Off on Mary McClymont’s Inspiring Clarion Call

Access to Justice: Why Focus On This Issue In an Era With So Many Existential Crises

Sometimes we advocates for access to justice quietly admit to each other that with so many other issues threatening our planet, the poor, and our democracy, that it is hard to argue for access to justice a a funding priority.

Without in any way undercutting the importance of all those issues, I think I may have figured out why access to justice remains such an overwhelming issue.  Interestingly, my take may suggest a way of talking about the issue that will appeal to the right as much as, or perhaps even more than, to the left.  It is simply this:

Access to justice is about ensuring that when the coercive power of the state intervenes or is called upon in relationships between individuals and, organizations, and indeed the state, that the outcome is determined on the merits, not on other factors.

As  very gross generalization, to which we can all find counter examples, criminal access issues arise when the state tries to use its coercive power to discipline an individual. Civil access is about everything else, but really when one party or anther, or both, call on the threat of the coercive power of the state to reorder their relationship.  As part of that process, the legal system has to decide, before deploying that coercive power, what happened in the case, and what the law permits and requires.  It is that decision-making process that then provides legitimacy to the specific use of the coercive power of the state.

Moreover, it is the availability of that coercive power and the process of deciding if and when to deploy it, that provide legitimacy to the state as a whole, and particularly to the availability of the coercive power.

For every political position (other than anarchist), that makes the accessibility of the justice system critical not only to their theory of the state, but also to having the means to do what they believe should be done by the state, in every area of life.

So, the trick is finding the words that will appeal to the universality of this general support.

What makes it hard is that it is an appeal to beliefs about process, not about outcomes, which makes it a harder sell to less-educated low information voters (who do not necessarily find resonance in process concepts such as evolution, statistical analysis, market dynamics, or cross-examination).  But fairness arguments, and those that appeal to the placing of limits upon the power of the state, do appeal strongly to such voters.

So, maybe the highest common denominator here is about guiding and constraining the power of courts so that they can protect us all.

Making sure courts are fair and truly open to all.

Making sure courts are there to help, not hurt.

Giving everyone the information and help they need to keep courts honest, fair and available to all when needed.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Counsel, Communications Strategy | Comments Off on Access to Justice: Why Focus On This Issue In an Era With So Many Existential Crises

The LSC – Pro Bono Net – Microsoft Statewide ATJ Portal

Now that the pilot states for the ATJ Statewide Portal Project have been announced as the two states of Alaska and Hawaii, we can start to see what it is all going to look like.

At a minimum, it helps make the case for the importance of LSC for the broader justice for all movement and initiatives.  In particular all states should think about this as an example of what the Chiefs called for in their Resolution, and what the Justice for All project facilitates strategic planning for.

Here is the LSC presentation on the Project, with some of the post important slides below:

portal-1

Portal-2

Portal3

Now, there is lots and lots of hard word to do, perhaps particularly with the development of a self-learning triage machine, (my paper here), but it is wonderful to have the core vision clearly articulated and graphically laid out.

Correction Note: In an earlier version of this post, I incorrectly described this as a grant program.  Microsoft,, working with stakeholders is doing the programming, and there is no LSC grant.  My apologies.  Thanks to LSC for pointing this out so promptly.

 

 

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Court Management, Funding, Legal Aid, Technology, Triage | Comments Off on The LSC – Pro Bono Net – Microsoft Statewide ATJ Portal

Algorithm Bias and Algorithm-Based Bias Compensation

As part of my series on algorithm bias, I want to offer what I think is a potentially revolutionary take on using algorithms not just to minimize, but actually to compensate for, bias and discrimination.

The core idea is that if algorithms, as it now becoming to be understood, can reflect the bias on a society, then they can also be used to measure the extent of the impact in a particular situation and then build in the appropriate compensation into the algorithm.  In contrast to the traditional and constitutionally disfavored “affirmative action,” this is not general race or gender-based “bias,” but rather the application of neutral rules in a highly individualized context.

At the risk of being highly controversial, even a supporter of “affirmative action” could not comfortably assert that there have never ever ever been instances of unfair advantage. (Although it is very safe to say that those seeing such advantage often fail completely to understand the extent to which bias, particularly over time, has disadvantaged in the individual case.)  Conversely, it would be a very arrogant opponent of affirmative action who would assert that such an approach was in fact unfair in every case.  The overall problem is that confirmation bias means that it is really easy to become convinced of the unfairness of affirmative action, and then take that out on those who are not even its actual beneficiaries, in any sense.

In any event, the broader point is that when algorithms pick up and reflect the history of bias and its impact and make predictions based on those patters, they are, of course perpetuating bias and essentially making it impossible overcome.  Recent media coverage has focused on one small example, in which AI analysis of words has shown that works associated with some races occur more frequently near to “positive” words, and vice versa.

More practically, however, I am worried by big data developing things like career success predictions, or trial and sentencing outcomes, based on apparently neutral factors like residence, or job history, when those predictions are themselves heavily based on histories of bias (both affirmative and negative in both senses — who at Harvard is not the beneficiary of some form of affirmative action?)

Most algorithms development systems are, hopefully, savvy enough to intentionally forbid the use of illegal factors in the algorithm.  But, if you allow those factors to be included in the development of an alternative algorithm, you are half way to a measure of the extent to which prior bias has contributed a person’s current future opportunities.

Let me give an example. Lets say that an algorithm ignores forbidden factors and gives a 50% chance of completing probation.  If we then run a forbidden factor sensitive algorithm (i.e. we now do include race, gender, etc, for research purposes only) and it gives us only the same 50% chance of completing probation, then we actually know that all of the persons risk comes from long term forbidden factor related issues rather than the decision-maker’s knowledge of person’s race.  I would think such a result would be a powerful wake up call to anyone.  Moreover, the difference in the contributions of components to the score would give us data on what was making the biggest difference — housing schools, policing, etc.

If the numbers are not the same, then you see a comparison of long term versus immediate bias impact, another fascinating result.

I am sure I am making this too simple, but it seems like a start.  Shoot me down, please.

 

 

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Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Bias, Discrimination, Judicial Ethics, Metrics, Race | 1 Comment

Towards A Principles-Driven Approach to Algorithm-Based Decision-Making in the Justice System

A very recent article by Adam Liptak in the New York Times draws attention to the actual practice in Wisconsin of using algorithm-driven predictions in sentencing, and to the pending attempt to otbain review of the practice by the US Supreme Court

In March, in a signal that the justices were intrigued by Mr. Loomis’s case, they asked the federal government to file a friend-of-the-court brief offering its views on whether the court should hear his appeal.

The report in Mr. Loomis’s case was produced by a product called Compas, sold by Northpointe Inc. It included a series of bar charts that assessed the risk that Mr. Loomis would commit more crimes.

The Compas report, a prosecutor told the trial judge, showed “a high risk of violence, high risk of recidivism, high pretrial risk.” The judge agreed, telling Mr. Loomis that “you’re identified, through the Compas assessment, as an individual who is a high risk to the community.”

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against Mr. Loomis. The report added valuable information, it said, and Mr. Loomis would have gotten the same sentence based solely on the usual factors, including his crime — fleeing the police in a car — and his criminal history.

At the same time, the court seemed uneasy with using a secret algorithm to send a man to prison. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, writing for the court, discussed, for instance, a report from ProPublica about Compas that concluded that black defendants in Broward County, Fla., “were far more likely than white defendants to be incorrectly judged to be at a higher rate of recidivism.”

There are so many issues bundled in here.

There is the issue of the use of algorithms at all in the making of predictions.  This is an issue of accuracy, fairness and legitimacy.

There is the issue of transparency.  The idea of not knowing the algorithm’s factors and logic seems bizarre, particularly when defended in commercial terms.  There is the issue of powerlessness of defendants and others somehow having no control of the fact process.

Finally, there is the deeply disturbing issue of embedded bias, which may be impossible to correct for.  I will deal with the embedded bias issue in more detail in a future post.

Firstly, as to the use of algorithms in making predictions there is significant evidence that they increase accuracy and fairness.  To be specific, studies have shown that algorithm productions and decisions can be more reliable and less prone to bias than human predictions and decisions.

In this research, statistical methods applied to Terry stops showed that cops using a very simple algorithm tool would make far fewer nonproductive stops than those relying on their fast intuition. To be specific:

Remarkably, only 6 percent of stops are needed to recover 50 percent of
weapons found under the usual stop-and-frisk policy, and only 58 percent are necessary to recover 90 percent of weapons.
Moreover, to no one’s surprise:
Statistical risk assessments offer an alternative, intriguing possibility for directly deter-mining whether stops are justified. Namely, one can use a predictive model to summarize the available information in terms of the likelihood
of stop success, and then interpret “reasonable suspicion” to mean this
ex ante likelihood is suitably high(above, say, 1 percent). Taking this
approach, we find that 43 percent of CPW stops had less than a 1 percent chance of turning up a weapon. Moreover, we find striking racial dis-parities. Whereas 49 percent of blacks stopped under suspicion of CPW had less than a 1 percentchance of in fact possessing a weapon, the cor-responding fraction for Hispanics is 34 percent, and is just 19 percent for stopped whites.

Secondly, as to transparency, let me describe what we did on this front at the Midtown Community Court. When a judge asked us if we could develop an algorithm predicting compliance with alternative sanctions, some of us demurred, not because of its technical difficulty, but because of the fear of people, in effect, being sentenced based on the non-compliance of others.  Then the judge said something that will echo with me for the rest of my life: “I just do not want to set people up for failure.”

Ultimately we built a system with three major features: 1. the probabilities were based on actual data and factors shown by regression analysis to be critical; 2. the factors impact were shown in histograms so that these factors could become part of the conversation.  Counsel might for example, point out that while a defendant did not have a formal address, he did have a place to live.  In such a case, counsel would ask the judge to change the homelessness setting.  Then, you could literally watch the histograms bounce around to show the new compliance projections.  Finally, we gave the judges compliance support tools, enabling them, for example, to order reminder phone calls to the defendant.

The conclusion I draw from this is that transparency, and indeed then then enabled  discussion, is critical to the effectiveness and legitimacy of these tools.  Proprietary commercial interests can be no excuse for secret government.  Moreover, confidentiality of algorithms is not necessarily required for protection of intellectual property, the law can protect such interests without secrecy.  Most patents are public.

Finally, as to embedded bias, let me now in this post just note how many deeply entangled levels such inevitably has, preserving and projecting into the future, the harms of the past.  The question is whether such embeds are better or worse that the bias of individualized discretion.

In a future posting, I will attempt to lay out some principles that should be followed in developing and using such predictive algorithms in the justice system.

Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Criminal Law, Discrimination, Research and Evalation, Security, Technology, Transparency | 2 Comments

100% Access to Justice Strategic Planning — a Forms Component Template

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.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Court Management, Forms | 4 Comments

Assessing a Justice for All Strategic Plan

With a powerful tool kit out there to help states engage in 100% access to justice strategic planning, and with states now engaged in the process (and not only those with grants from the JFA Project), I thought it might be useful to lay out some thoughts on how to asses whether an emerging plan does all that it can do.  As you know, the process as laid out in the Guidance is component based, and so therefore are these self-assessment thoughts. (For an analysis of the Components, and of parallel suggestions in ABA ABA and Civil Justice Reports, see here.)

I wold suggest that each state should periodically ask itself:

Are we, and will we be, on an ongoing basis –

  • Able to identify how far we are in deploying all the key components,
  • Able to make choices about which components should be given greatest attention and what steps need to be taken to complete deployment of those components or to start deployments of those not deployed,
  • Know what needs to be done to put in place systems that will ensure that those in need of access services will be referred to, and in fact connect to the most appropriate and cost effective services, and have a plan for what will be done when resources are not sufficient,
  • Able to identify which deployments will need additional or diverted funds or resources, and be able to identify plans to raise needed funds and also to move forward regardless of whether additional resources can be raised in the short term,
  • Know what needs to be done to put in place measures of availability and delivery of services in comparison to need, and of the impact upon the extent to which the services impact upon the meeting of the “decision upon the facts and the law” standard,
  • Identify the tasks needed to complete these steps and be able to assign to different organizations the responsibility for the tasks needed to achieve the above,
  • Have a plan for making changes when tasks are not completed,
  • Know how to develop a legitimate governance system for the integrated components of this system.

Thanks again to the Public Welfare Foundation for their funding of the JFA Project.

 

 

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, ABA, Access to Justice Boards, Funding | Comments Off on Assessing a Justice for All Strategic Plan

National Academy Report On Need for Strategy to Understand Impact of Technology on Economy and Employment Suggests Need to Go Further

As reported in the New York Times, and elaborated in Nature, a panel of the National Academies has called for a national approach to data to understand and manage the impact of technology on the economy and jobs.  As Nature puts it:

For instance, although digital technologies underpin many consumer services, standard US government data sources — such as the Current Population Survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — don’t accurately capture the rise of the contingent or temporary workforce because they do not ask the right questions. Researchers and private-sector economists have tried to address this by commissioning their own surveys2, but these lack the scale, scope and credibility of government surveys. Government administrative data, such as tax forms, provide another potentially valuable data source, but these need to be integrated with government survey data to provide context and validation3.

Similarly lacking are metrics to track progress in the technologies and capabilities of AI. Moore’s law (that microprocessor performance doubles every two years or so) captures advances in the underlying semiconductors, but it does not cover rapid improvements in areas such as computer vision, speech and problem solving. A comprehensive index of AI would provide objective data on the pace and breadth of developments. Mapping such an index to a taxonomy of skills and tasks in various occupations would help educators to design programmes for the workforce of the future. Non-governmental groups, such as the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University in California, are taking useful steps, but much more can and should be done at the federal level.

No argument there.  Indeed, this data will be hugely helpful in maximizing access to justice by helping move forward with the redeployment of roles and the focusing of higher skills on the situations in which they are needed.  In fact the data approach described above is very similar to our own triage data philisophy, that focuses on what tasks need to be done to present a case, and what role is appropriate to have that done.

But, as we also well know in the access to justice field, it is not enough to think in terms of automation and displacement of tasks by machines and AI, but to think of the restructuring of what is actually done.  Forms completion programs should be lessening the need for paralegals.  But taking conflict resolution out of individualized fact gathering is going to have far greater impact.

It is certainly the case that even without such a radical change, the job of court clerk, for example, is going to almost disappear in the next couple of decades, and be replaced with a data management and security role.  But what if technology lets us see conflicts in far broader contextual terms.  Will there be a need for people who can help people understand that.  To put it another way, what will legitimize decisions in the future?  Not paper flow, that is for sure.

I still think that the jobs will be there for overview thinkers and for human connectors.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Court Management, Document Assembly, Non-Lawyer Practice, Research and Evalation, Science, Simplification, Systematic Change, Technology, Triage | Comments Off on National Academy Report On Need for Strategy to Understand Impact of Technology on Economy and Employment Suggests Need to Go Further

Prosecutors Getting Rid of the Independent Commission on Forensic Science is Short-Sighted as well as Incomprehensible.

I simply offer you this cross examination of every investigator or expert:

Q.   Thanks for your testimony, I am sure it will help the jury, but just a few things to clear up.  When did you get your training in the science of (whatver)?

A.  2005.

Q.  Twelve years ago?

A.  Yes.

Q.  And it is true, is it not, that you were told that it was accurate and up to date, and that you could rely on in in your investigations?

A.  Indeed.

Q.  And that you could and would rely on it in your testimony, including that you which you just gave, and in your responses to the detailed questions that will follow?

A. Absolutely.

Q.  Are you familiar with the questions that have been raised abut scientific testimony in general, and about the science of (whatever).

A.  Yes.

Q.  Good.  You are also familiar with the fact that the United States Department of Justice became so concerned about these issues, and their potential impact on the reliability and integrity of jury verdicts that they established an indepedent Commission to explore these issues?

A.  Of course.

Q.  And, is it possible that the results of the work of that Commission might have imapcted upon the conclusions that you have just offered?

A.  No.

Q.  Really, would you like to explain why such an exploration by the US Department of Justice would be of no use.  Never  mind.  Let me ask this:  Are you aware that the Commission has been closed down, and its functions brought directly into the Department and its command structure?

A.  Yes.

Q.  Do you have views about the wisdom of that?

A.  No.

Q.  Do you know who ordered the closure of the Commission?

A.  No.

Q.  Let me attempt to refresh you recollection.  It was the newly appointed Attorney General, wasn’t it?

A.  I guess so.

Q.  OK, with that clear, lets get into the detail of your conclusions, and the analysis upon which they were based.

.  .  .  .

I suspect that that will have some effect with most juries.  In some jurisdictions, will be quite devastating.

Posted in Criminal Law, Defender Programs, Dept. of Justice, Policing, Science, Technology, White House | Comments Off on Prosecutors Getting Rid of the Independent Commission on Forensic Science is Short-Sighted as well as Incomprehensible.

ICE Policy Insults Courts by Not Treating Them as “Sensitive Locations.” This Calls for Far More Forceful Response By National Access and Court Organizations.

This from the ICE FAQ page says it all:

Are courthouses sensitive locations?

Courthouses do not fall under ICE or CBP’s policies concerning enforcement actions at or focused on sensitive locations.

In other words, courts are not the kind of places to which people should be able to go without being in fear.  In contrast, the following (described as “includ[ing], but not be[ing] limited to” is the listing of such locations:

  • Schools, such as known and licensed daycares, pre-schools and other early learning programs; primary schools; secondary schools; post-secondary schools up to and including colleges and universities; as well as scholastic or education-related activities or events, and school bus stops that are marked and/or known to the officer, during periods when school children are present at the stop;
  • Medical treatment and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities;
  • Places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples;
  • Religious or civil ceremonies or observances, such as funerals and weddings; and
  • During public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade.

It’s hard to figure the logic, and it gets worse.  It turns out that courts, are the only institutions explicitly listed as not being such “sensitive locations.”  (There are other kinds of exemptions, but they are not similarly institution focused.)

The Chief Justice of California responded appropriately by letter to the AG and Homelad Security:

Our courthouses serve as a vital forum for ensuring access to justice and protecting public safety. Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws.

Our courts are the main point of contact for millions of the most vulnerable Californians in times of anxiety, stress, and crises in their lives. Crime victims, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, witnesses to crimes who are aiding law enforcement, limited-English speakers, unrepresented litigants, and children and families all come to our courts seeking justice and due process of law. As finders of fact, trial courts strive to mitigate fear to ensure fairness and protect legal rights. Our work is critical for ensuring public safety and the efficient administration of justice.

But I would urge that the courts and their national organizations respond specifically to the singling out of courts for explicit exemption from being “sensitive locations.”  This, to me, is an implicit acknowledgement that many might reasonably have expected courts to be on the list, particularly given the length and comprehensiveness of the list.

It is particularly contemptuous (used colloquially) that agencies that are essentially prosecutorial should behave this way to courts, which are invested by our society and constitution with the highest expectation of neutrality as “safe spaces”.

From a political point of view, it is surely far easier to argue that courts are at least as critical as the forums listed above, than to argue that courts deserve special treatment.  This is simply a parity argument, and it should be much easier for courts and the legal profession, and their organizations and supporters to make such an appeal to common sense.

OK folks, let’s us, and they, hear from you.

 

Posted in Constitution, Court Management, Immigration, Judicial Supremacy, Self-Help Services, White House | Comments Off on ICE Policy Insults Courts by Not Treating Them as “Sensitive Locations.” This Calls for Far More Forceful Response By National Access and Court Organizations.

A Contrarian View on Libel Law — Dealing with The Situation in Which The Courts Should Be Available to Establish The Truth, and Cheaply, While Making Sure that Libel Law Remains a Tool That Can Be Used By Truth Seekers To Counter Merchants of Hate

So the great and the good (and me, this time) get all upset when Trump talks about loosening libel law.  It not only fits with his ignorant aggrieved victim persona, but can be very effective at intimidating critics.

But maybe we should be thinking about it the other way.  Surely, if libel laws were easier to use, Trump would be the one in most trouble.  He is the one who shows the most contempt for the truth. the least consideration of the impact on others for his words, or tweets, the most propensity to state the impossible, the least willingness to back down, even when proven wrong, and the greatest tendency to make utterly inconsistent and destructive statements.

More importantly, while the increasing and consequence-free use of “false facts” is not caused by our current libel law, the difficulty of bringing libel cases against has made it much harder to stand up against such “facts” and to get social clarification and consensus for their falsity.

While public figure libel law has become more than a little technical over the years, the core reason remains the same, to prevent the victim of a good faith factual error from being held up to ransom and effectively silenced by litigation.  Its far more the cost of the litigation that acts as the deterrent (something Trump uses all the time) and so the effort is to cut this cases off quickly.

With 50 years of experience under our belts, and with the risks of lies in the political arena being far greater then they were then, maybe it is time for a nuanced look at the law, trying to make sense of a mix of goal, rather than see it as a matter of “loosening” or “tightening” them.

To be specific, I think most people would agree on the following:

Neither people or the media should be chilled from saying what they really believe to be true.

There IS a difference between a false fact and a misguided or wrong, or even maliious opinion.

The media should not bear huge litigation costs whenever someone does not like what they say.

Institutions to help in establishing truth are necessary function in a democracy.

When an assertion is beyond the bounds of reason, and the person responsible refuses to retract in any way, society needs mechanisms for establishing truth, and for doing so in a way perceived as legitimate by most.

Notwithstanding all the problems with the adversary system, the fact remains that the combination of a neutral fact finder, following formal rules, with presentation of evidence and confrontation of that evidence by all sides, and appropriate finality, is an amazing (if often expensive) engine for finding truth.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that the legal system needs some mechanisms for these situations, and that current mechanisms are failing.  Here is one thought:

A system of declaratory actions in which one who claims harm in a false statement about them can obtain a declaration of falsity, after a due process hearing.  State of mind is not in issue, and neither is damages, thus making this a far cheaper process for all sides.  A judgment would be subject to appeal, but not be res judicata in any subsequent damage action (Note to non legal jargon experts: this means that the truth or falsity finding can not be relied upon to obtain damages, even in a new case.)  As a practical matter, one found to have uttered a falsity is going to appeal to the court of public opinion to explain why they made the statement, but it is not at that point a legal matter.  Circumstances will be debated, but not at huge cost.  (Of course, truth can indeed change with new evidence over time.)

With such a new tool, no one would be precluded from attempting to obtain damages in a separate procedure, but current substantive legal standards for public figure libel would apply in that procedure.  Damages would depend on the level of culpability — i.e. contempt for the truth — as well as actual damage.  Thus a tool would continue to exist to use against that hate speech that was also libelous.  Such cases would be much rarer, much more expensive, and not used against the media, but against Nazi and hate groups that went beyond opinion.

I think that this would pass constitutional muster under New York Times v. Sullivan, given that nothing is being changed about speech-suppressing substantive standards.

Posted in Constitution, Libel Law, Supreme Court, White House | Comments Off on A Contrarian View on Libel Law — Dealing with The Situation in Which The Courts Should Be Available to Establish The Truth, and Cheaply, While Making Sure that Libel Law Remains a Tool That Can Be Used By Truth Seekers To Counter Merchants of Hate

Mary McClymont’s Governing Magazine Op-Ed Moves the Chief’s Resolution and Justice For All Message to the Other Branches

I suspect that most in the non-judicial branches are still largely unaware of the the Chiefs’ 100% Resolution, making access to justice the office bi-partisan policy of the United States, let alone that they have thought about the implications for their governing and policy missions.

So, it is excellent that Governing Magazine has just published Mary McClymont’s piece, A Solution for the Access Crisis in Our Civil Justice System.

As the piece puts it, after summarizing the access crisis:

Two years ago, in an unheralded but path-breaking move, the Conference of Chief Justices of the United States and the Conference of State Court Administrators unanimously passed a resolution supporting the goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for people with “essential civil legal needs.”

The resolution calls on states to develop systems in which everyone can get legal help through a comprehensive approach that provides a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services. It also calls on core players — courts, Access to Justice commissions, civil legal aid organizations, the private bar and other essential partners — to work together across organizational boundaries in their states to find solutions. Now, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York are seizing the opportunity to bring the vision expressed by the resolution closer to reality through what’s known as the Justice for All Project.

Housed at the National Center for State Courts, overseen by a distinguished advisory committee and funded by the Public Welfare Foundation with others on deck, the project will assist the seven states with resources to assess their systems’ strengths and weaknesses, make coherent action plans that integrate services to close the gaps, and begin making changes. They will harness an array of practical solutions — such as self-help services, automated court forms, and limited scope representation — to better match users who have specific needs to the appropriate level of help.  .  .  .  The potential benefits for our communities are substantial.

This spreads the word throughout the judiciary that “this train is leaving the station,” unless you want to be way behind the curve of the rest of the country (It later tells of the 25 state applications for grants).

Perhaps more importantly it puts the other branches of government on notice that something is going on here — something that impacts a broad range of their missions, and to which they can contribute.  This perfectly lays the groundwork for bringing the US DOJ Legal Aid Inter agency Roundtable approach to the state level.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Communications Strategy, Dept. of Justice, Funding, LAIR, Systematic Change | 1 Comment

Guest Blogger Claudia Johnson: What I’ve learned in the past 9 years of helping legal aid, courts, and other non-profits create online forms to promote Access for All

What I’ve learned in the past 9 years of helping legal aid, courts, and other non-profits create online forms to promote Access for All

Claudia C. Johnson*

While working across the U.S. in supporting states and courts adapt online forms to increase access to justice, I have learned multiple universal lessons. Although each state, and each legal aid community has unique factors and a unique mix of legal resources and cultures, I share these observations based on experience in seeing a multitude of projects succeed on their document assembly projects. I some of the main take away lessons learned over almost 9 years. For an online form project to succeed these are some of the dos of online form projects.

  1. Do pick a stable form. Pick a form that is not going to be changing frequently as you automate. If the law is likely to change—don’t build a project around that form or statute. If the form language is not fully developed and accepted by all who use the form—first create consensus on the form and then automate it. As much as possible get to agreement on having the forms and instructions come out in Plain Language. As much as possible, create gender neutral forms, particularly for family law forms.
  1. Do automate even if you state has not yet adopted uniform forms. Many states do not have uniform forms—this should not be a barrier to automate. Instead, view this as an opportunity to get multiple counties to buy in accepting the form. Eventually this might lead to the adoption of uniform online forms. In Illinois, for example ILAO automated online forms and eventually some of those forms became statewide forms. http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/forms/approved/divorce/financial_affidavit.asp
  1. Do pick a small, even modest group of forms to automate for your first project. If this is the first time you are doing a project—don’t select a large group of forms to automate. Some forms, even just a simple form, might need to accommodate multiple factual scenarios, so for your first projects, keep the number of form and attachments, simple. If the forms can be bundled into multiple outputs/packages pick the simplest set of case use scenario. If a form can support 80 different user types—don’t pick that form for your first project. Choose something that is simple and easier to test. However, if you pick a form that it is too simple—that might be overkill. In some states, they don’t automate forms that are less than 1 page, as automation is best when the user has to enter the same information over, and over, and over. The computer can focus on entering captions and information that repeats itself over and over, while the person can focus on what orders they need to request and prepare their materials and strategy for each remedy requested.  If this is your first project start with a package that will not require complicated logic or multiple calculations. So for example, don’t start with a child support modification project, instead target a simple probate form, or an adult change modification. This will save you time and money in many ways: including reducing the costs of 1) writing instructions, 2) plain language review 3) testing 4) hosting and 5) support once the forms go live. If your funding or highest area of need is for a complex form and process—keep it as simple as you can. Don’t promise to handle every single factual case that can use that form or proceeding, and don’t promise to create the language in more than 1 language. You can do these next steps—once you have completed the plain language English form—and you have it out and it is getting positive feedback and good usage before you move to more complex variations on that form/proceeding. The 2013 Document Assembly Programs, Best Practice Guide, for Court System Development and Implementation, by Judge Fisher and Rochelle Klempner, has helpful guidance on choosing forms starting at page 13. See http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/nya2j/pdfs/bestpractices_courtsystemdocument_assemblyprograms.pdf.  No matter how good your team is, or how great your partnerships are—less is better. As you build competency and deepen your understanding of the needs of user for your forms, you can increase the complexity. Once you have done a full form roll out then move to larger more complex forms and projects. If you must start with a very complex form/process—then do only 1 at a time.
  1. Do talk to others to identify what forms to pick for automation. Make sure you talk to other groups or organizations with different missions—and develop criteria to select your forms. Form selection will make or break a project. Criteria might include collecting data and information on:

1) What forms are filed the most by those without lawyers if the project is for forms that are filed with courts

2) Complexity and stability of a form (see point 1 and number 2),

3) is it a form that has the two parties filing or only one—don’t overlook the other side if you are doing self-help based work

4) Is it an area of law or demographic where there are no other resources or help? Or are there multiple stakeholders serving similar communities with this or similar issues? If so, include them in the conversation.

5) How will each form under consideration benefit different audiences? Can those benefits be measured?

6) Talk with your partners and your team about what you would want to know after the forms are done? What would you define as success coming directly from using the form—and how would you measure it? Be realistic in these conversations and don’t underestimate the complexity of measuring outcomes.

If you pick forms that only your group wants then use volume of your forms might be limited from the get go and you won’t maximize the benefit of the project, investment. If you pick forms that multiple communities can use (for example adult name change, or powers of attorney)—those forms might get more referrals than forms that fit only a very discrete user need.

  1. Do measure before and after the online form goes live. Measure time, lines, number of people helped before and after the online form goes live.  Before you select a form, measure the amount of time it takes the lawyer, volunteer, and or self-helper to create the documents. Find out who is involved in giving out information on the process, and estimate how many FTEs are involved in the process. Do this before you release your online form. Then measure again after the form rolls out. For example, if it is a form that is going to be filed with a court, or administrative agency, find out how much time or how many times a day a clerk or court staff spend giving information to people in line. Notice the peak line length times—find out if people are getting turned away—on a daily or weekly basis. Keep track of what is happening at the location where people go for help. This will be greatly beneficial once the form is in use. This information will also help you design an online interview that hopefully only asks information once—and that reduces the amount of time it takes to produce a quality complex document. As much as you can, streamline the work flow around the forms—so that you are not put in the position to have one form for a clinic, for a pro bono placement, and for use by people at court or at home. Aim to have one online interview that works across county lines and case use scenarios that can be used used across in multiple work flows. Over time—and online form will let you provide assistance in different ways. Try to design a form that can be quickly modified or where the instructions can be redone—for use in other contexts or with other partners.

 

  1. Do test your forms and consider doing a soft launch before you stop editing them. Once you are testing an online form—measure how much time it takes your testers to use the form. Ask them how they feel about the task—was it too long? Too short? Ask them what other information they wish they had before they sat down on the form.  Make sure you do this also with people using mobile forms. Find out how they print out the forms. This will help you craft the instructions for your different user groups and fine tune the form for effective use. Pro Bono Net released a guide which might be helpful when thinking about how to set up computer terminals for users who need to create forms: http://www.connectingjusticecommunities.com/computer-station-best-practices-a-new-resource-from-lawhelp-interactive/2013/01/.   After you deploy, keep track of the length of the interview session. Find out how many people leave and come back to work on the online form. As more people move to mobile devices—time to completion will raise in importance. Be prepared to shorten the forms and stream line the process to meet the expectation of new emerging users. Be ready to provide support on saving, printing, and coming back to continue working on a form—and make sure your instructions provide that information also. So test the instructions as you test the form.
  1. Do think of the setting where the forms will be used. Make sure your locations have reliable and robust internet connectivity and printers. For mobile phone users make sure you have electric outlets so they can charge their phones as needed. Often times—computers/terminals, printers, paper and ink are not factored in whenever a new kiosk is being created where forms can be used. Make sure you cover these needs with your partners and there is a way to make sure these are available on demand. For mobile users—be prepared to provide printing support from mobile devices. See: http://www.connectingjusticecommunities.com/computer-station-best-practices-a-new-resource-from-lawhelp-interactive/2013/01/.  If you are providing a public space where people can sit down and use the form—think of what your patrons will need to use the form. Set up the desk and materials with an eye of encouraging privacy and concentration.
  1. Choose the right project lead. Do select a project lead who has the time to run the project and understands the end users and partner’s needs. Make sure that your lead person is someone who has strong relationships with other partners and has time to focus on the project.  If you give the project to someone who can’t allocate time to the project, the project will be at peril. The project lead does not need to be a lawyer, but does need to be a strong communicator and have basic project management skills. It has to be someone who has credibility and the backup of your administration. Your top leadership needs to believe in the project and support it.  Keep in mind, online form projects are change/innovation projects. See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2016/09/13/are-these-the-real-reasons-why-tech-projects-fail/#138411e17320.  If you give your project to someone who does not understand end users, the needs, the resources available, how to work with other groups and agencies, how to measure success, your project will face unnecessary hurdles and the implementation will be limited. If the project is approached as a technology project only—it will fail to leverage the positive changes that come from savings in time from using the form that can be put to provide other needed services, or create other work flows that promote access to justice. The best project lead is someone who has a vision to serve more people better, who is in a practice that faces serious constraints, and that can work with attorneys to help them adopt the form and change the way they produce legal documents.
  1. Do create an outreach plan. As you work on your forms plan, develop an outreach plan. Identify all the groups that can refer users to the form. Identify all the places where people go to ask for help—and let them know that the form is ready. Set up referral agreements. For some forms, your greatest referral source might be friends and family. For others, Court Clerks. Each problem area might require a unique outreach approach. Work with your web masters to post the form in easy to use and find webpages.
  1. Don’t burry the form urls deep into a page. When presenting your forms, design matters. The page, instructions where your users will find the online form—are important. Consider adapting best practices when designing those pages. For example, some stats have been successful in getting their forms used by making them part of a problem specific “mini-portal”. A mini portal has in 1 urls, essential resources a person will need to resolved one common and specific legal problem, for example, eviction, or divorce. It contains referrals, forms, videos, in one well designed page. Examples: htp://www.washingtonlawhelp.org/dissolution or http://www.lawhelpny.org/consumer.
  1. Do think about safeguarding your end user’s information. When someone is creating a legal form they will be entering a lot of sensitive data. They might be entering information about their credit, their marriage, their relationships, debt and accounts, assets health care information, income, etc. It might include children’s information. Make safety a top priority. Read privacy policies carefully. This ABA page summarizes ABA cloud ethics decisions that apply to attorneys, which might be helpful as you look at standards of care: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/charts_fyis/cloud-ethics-chart.html
  1. Do request user feedback and act on it. Once your forms are live, give the users the opportunity to give you feedback. In the LHI platform, owners can post their own survey tool to the end of a form, to get survey feedback. In addition, Pro Bono Net shares end user feedback that comes through LHI w/the project owners on a routine basis as part of their support.  Read the feedback. Often times, feedback can alert you of changes in areas where you don’t have staff or offices. So for example, if a court changes a procedure, or address,—and end user might let you know about it, which is helpful if you don’t have staff in that office giving you updates and there is no standard way of being notified of local changes. Sometimes the forms or questions can be confusing to end users. That feedback can help you improve your forms and instructions as you maintain them. If your users can’t use the forms you have made available because their facts don’t fit the form’s topic, that feedback can help you garner resources to create forms in those areas of need.
  1. Use the online form to simplify the process. Creating an online form will give you the opportunity to simplify local processes and rules and remove barriers to access. For every question in a form—ask if that question is necessary? For every step in the process of getting a decision, ask if you need another form for that. Use the form as a magnifying glass to ID barriers for people without lawyers. Consider and identify anything that can be simplified before automating the form. Eliminate fees, simplify or eliminate notary requirements, bundle the fee waiver with the online form, eliminate any extra step that is a burden for the person without the lawyer if possible. As you create the form, simplify the process, simplify the instructions, simplify the number of steps and visits that it takes to complete the process. Use the form to reduce barriers as much as possible and focus on the process, not just the forms.
  1. Once you roll out the forms—set up a budget to sustain the form. Over and over we learn that states that continue investing in their forms, their design, their instructions, their videos, their work flow maps, their staging pages, the partnerships behind the forms, generally end up having more utilization of their forms, and wider form collections that states that do not plan or set aside a small budget to sustain their forms projects. So once your form goes live and the form creation part of a project is over, continue talking to your partners, continue monitoring what benefits use of the form brings. If you developed the ability to create new forms in house, consider adding online forms to other areas of need. Your staff can continue learning and increasing their capacity to create and manage online form projects on an ongoing basis by joining monthly calls and video remote trainings and calls through both Pro Bono Net, LSNTAP, and SRLN. These calls happen once a month—and don’t take a lot of time. If your staff continue to see other examples of how forms are increasing access, that capacity will lead to new forms, better forms or both. LSNTAP trainings can be found here: http://lsntap.org/trainings. You can find more information about SRLN here: http://www.srln.org and about LawHelp Interactive here: http://www.probono.net/lhi
  1. Reach out. Regardless of how many times you have done and rolled a successful online form project, there will be bumps in the road. When you find yourself in that situation, reach out. At Pro Bono Net, we have been supporting online form projects since 2006—and have helped many states grow to their collections over time. We are always interested in sharing best practices, supporting online forms—and helping those use online forms design and develop a successful project. So please reach out. You can visit http://www.probono.net/lhi to find resources you might find helpful as you plan and budget or evaluate an online form project or join the list serves: https://www.probono.net/dasupport/login/?membersonly&returnto=%2Fdasupport%2Fgroups%2F (will need to join the page).  You can also visit and join the SRLN, http://www.srln.org/taxonomy/term/97. SRLN has a forms and technology working group. For example, they have a listing of SRL interactive forms by state: http://www.srln.org/node/850/srl-interactive-court-forms-state-ncsc-2016 (password needed)–that lists the web pages and the platform that is used to make the forms available.

* About Claudia: Claudia is the Program Manager for LawHelp Interactive. Since 2008 Claudia has been working in motivating and supporting legal non profits, courts and other non profits to use online forms to help people with out attorneys create their own legal documents and resolved their legal problems. Part of her work includes working with resource constrained legal services providers and helping them use online forms to streamline their internal work flows for document creationg. Claudia’s work with LawHelp Interactive was featured in the NY Times in 2016: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/01/opinion/legal-aid-with-a-digital-twist.html?_r=0 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/opinion/a-year-of-big-ideas-in-social-change.html Claudia is an innovator that works and supports multiple groups and multiple states in using technology. for good and improve access to justice for all. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and dog.

Posted in Document Assembly, Guest Bloggers, Self-Help Services, SRLN, Technology, Tools | 2 Comments

SRLN Announces Forms Competition

The SRLN Forms & Technology Working Group is holding its first ever Civil Legal Problems Forms Contest.  There are two categories in the competition:

  • Best Static Form
  • Best Automated Form

This is a great opportunity to be part of an energizing conversation within the court and legal aid access community about how to make forms (both static and automated) much better.

Given the huge role of forms in ANY innovation, this really has to be seen as a foundational project for any access to justice improvement.  To quote, in part, the Justice for All Guidance:

Twenty years of experience have taught us that it is almost impossible to deploy any innovation for court users without getting standardized forms in place. It has also taught us that the language and design of the forms are critical. Without such forms, self-help centers are only marginally useful, judges cannot know what questions to ask, and all but the most educated and confident litigants are effectively prevented from generating the documents that the rules require them to use.

 

As with all its components, the JFA Guidance includes a forms sufficiency assessment tools.

The Guidance also lists the following as the key elements of a full successful initiative:

  • Implementation of standardized plain language forms
  • Protocols for assessing and updating forms
  • Testing for comprehensibility and usability
  • Form data integration with the court information system

The deadlines for submissions for the competition is May 1, 2017, and link for submissions is here.  Winners get a free registration to the nex SRLN Conference

Go to it, folks.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Generally, Document Assembly, Forms, SRLN | Comments Off on SRLN Announces Forms Competition