Just last month, the Massachusetts Court System released its Interim Report on Access to Justice Initiatives (Massachusetts), specifically initiatives in the Trial Court. This initiative is not to replace the work of their Access to Justice Commission, but to enhance it, as noted in the report itself.
Much of their work mirrors what we in South Carolina are doing.
They are reviewing progress in other states:
- looking at developing forms and interactive websites for self-represented litigants;
- reviewing implications and feasibility of limited scope representation aka unbundled legal services;
- exploring ways to develop court service centers;
- increasing access to the courts for those with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).
They are reviewing challenges within their current system:
- increases in self-represented litigation;
- increases in legal disputes with underlying social problems such as mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence;
- increased need to work toward consistent and current technology.
Their consensus? Action toward providing:
- services for court users with limited or no English language skills, including staff who can speak and read other languages,
- instructional materials in other languages, and court forms in other languages;
- technology, including wireless (internet) access in courthouses, MassCourts public access, and court forms that can be completed on-line;
- self-help centers and materials; and
- child care centers.
What’s encouraging? That this very government is working to make the process easier for us to navigate – during a time of economic crisis.
Kudos Massachusetts! We’ll be watching your progress and wish you well throughout the process.