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

Technology and the Law – 3 online articles

technology-in-the-court

Many thanks to www.selfhelpsupport.org/news for these 3 online articles:

  1. Signs of Innovative Life in the Practice of Law – Transforming Legal Aid by Ronald W. Staudt. This article offers insight into recent changes in the way that technology is affecting law. It notes some of the entities that have impacted the practice including ProBono.net, Kaivo, NPADO and A2J Author, and the way that these technologies are expanding access to justice for individuals living in poverty.
  2. Technology Evangelist Keeps Faith in Legal Aid by Maria Kantzavelos. This article documents the accomplishments of the previous author, Ronald W. Staudt, who proclaims himself the “technology evangelist.” Staudt is the director of Chicago-Kent’s Center for Access to Justice & Technology.
  3. Tazewell County Legal Self-Help Center Opens by Tara Mattimoe. This article introduces the new Self-Help Center in Tazewell County (IL). The purpose of the Center is to assist people unable to afford an attorney. All the information is found online at http://tazewell.illinoislegalaid.org, which is maintained by Illinois Legal Aid Online.

Enjoy!

Robin

Imitation. Greatest Form of Flattery, right?

Mirror Mirror On the Wall

 

Mirror Mirror On the Wall

If Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery, then SLAW, a cooperative Canadian weblog on things legal, should feel really flattered.

It appears that the Law Commission of Ontario/Commission du Droit de l’Ontario (LCO/CDO) is similar to the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission. Its mandate is to recommend law reform measures to increase the legal system’s relevance, effectiveness and accessibility; to clarify and simplify the law; consider technology as a means to enhance access to justice; and stimulate critical debate about law and promote scholarly legal research.

[And Francophiles, their website is fun to explore. For the rest of us, simply click on English.]

SLAW’s recent post “A Technology Project for the LCO” really caught my attention. Part of the LCO/CDO mandate is to consider technology as a conduit for access to justice and SLAW is requesting ideas for using technology as a means to enhance access to justice.

Here’s where the imitation occurs. I’m asking each of you to add your ideas for utilizing technology to enhance access to justice in the comments’ section of this post.

Please think broadly and creatively – instructional/explanatory videos, online records access, telephone instructions, email alerts, text messages, etc.

After all, you know how you “roll” and SC Access to Justice wants to reach you.

-RFW

SOA WORLD MAGAZINE Breaks Story

Pro Bono Net Announces KPMG Sponsorship

South Carolina Access to Justice Commission was pleased to read that Pro Bono Net announced support from KPMG LLC, especially during such tough economic times. And thanks to SOA World Magazine for breaking the news.

Excerpts:

“We will offer web-based and other educational sessions to Pro Bono Net members, and look for opportunities to provide Forensic and Forensic Technology Services to legal counsel working through Pro Bono Net,” Richard H. Girgenti [national lead partner for KPMG’s Forensic Practice and a member of the firm’s Board] said, adding, “We are especially pleased to announce this sponsorship, as KPMG encourages our employees to give back to their communities.”

“At a time when so many families face problems such as eviction and foreclosure, it’s heartening that KPMG recognizes the difference that access to a lawyer can make,” said Mark O’Brien, Executive Director of Pro Bono Net. “KPMG’s support will enable Pro Bono Net to continue connecting people in need with free legal counsel, and to develop new programs that respond to emergent needs.”

For the whole article, click here.

-RFW

SC ATJ New Year’s Wishes or Resolutions?

COUNTDOWN TO 2009

rfw-hny092

As the New Year’s wishes and resolutions are starting to pour in, I’ve had a few moments to ponder Access to Justice resolutions for 2009. Before I lose count of the many goals for 2009, I thought I’d share a few.

12. South Carolina Access to Justice will develop a working relationship with legal paraprofessionals throughout the state.

11. Technology advances such as instant messaging, podcasts, YouTube videos, and email allow greater communication to and for people in need of low-cost legal services, especially when transportation imposes a barrier.

10. The Commission and partner organizations reach solutions to the need for interpreters for individuals who are Deaf and with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

9.  South Carolina law students, both USC School of Law and Charleston School of Law students, become engaged in access to justice and collaborate with the Commission for creative solutions.

8. South Carolina attorneys recognize the opportunity that unbundled or limited scope legal services can provide to South Carolinians with low income or of modest means, especially during this financial climate while sustaining the attorney’s practice at the same time.

7. SC Access to Justice establishes a library workgroup to assist self-represented litigants (SRLs) with access to approved, free legal forms (http://www.sccourts.org/forms/indexSelfHelp.cfm) and to establish a long-lasting partnership with libraries.

6. All South Carolinians who are unable to afford an attorney can reach one access point for all South Carolina legal service organizations.

5. Every County Courthouse will house or have access to a nearby self-help center for self-represented litigants.

4. Every county self-help center will be staffed for a minimum of 5 hours per week by pro bono attorneys.

3. Every South Carolina licensed attorney completes at least 50 hours of pro bono service as per ABA Model Rule 6.1 VOLUNTARY PRO BONO SERVICE.

2. The Second Pilot Lawyer Mentor Program incorporates the aspirational Pro Bono expectation and that it becomes a “shall” instead of a “should.”

1. That ALL South Carolinians have equal access to the law and its remedies without regard to their economic status.

Happy New Year!

-RFW