Massachusetts Releases Interim Report on Access to Justice

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:

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 fascinating? This came about through a survey to court personnel. Often we hear that the government is full of bureaucratic red tape.

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.

-RFW

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Couldn’t Say It Better Myself

If the poor no longer have equal access to justice, the fabric of our much-admired judicial system will be torn apart. American democracy will suffer a serious blow.

 

Each morning I check through my Access to Justice Google Alerts for topics that may be relevant to the work of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. Sometimes the topics are pertinent, sometimes not. This morning however, an article caught my eye and when I read it, I was blown away.

This article comes out of Hennepin County, which includes the city of Minneapolis. Hennepin County has led the country with some of its innovations for self-represented litigants via their court self-help centers. The writers are eloquent as well as practical.

Please take a moment to read through this great opinion piece entitled “Two Americas: Judicial budget cuts could create two systems of justice.”

-RFW