The nationwide “Justice for All” forum is examining ways to ensure justice is accessible to low-income individuals, those facing social injustices and hardship, and citizens with a lack of payment options. This second part of the series provides 5 ways to create visible public access to justice for the citizens you serve.
Accessible Justice Initiatives
Crucial to the success of the Justice for All forum is the need to spread the word and ensure initiatives and services meant to help modest and low-income individuals are visible and known to the citizens that can benefit from these programs. Consider the following initiatives, many of which have been highlighted by the Center for Court Innovation, each ensuring public access to justice is within reach:
- Provide representation for those facing eviction. Stable housing is recognized as a major contributor to a family’s well-being. However, many families face eviction without legal representation. In New York City, Poverty Justice Solutions is addressing this problem by offering legal help from recent law school grads.
- Offer an arena to solve disputes cooperatively. Peacemaking programs in Brooklyn and Syracuse use traditional Native American practices in which trained volunteers help parties involved in a dispute not only resolve the problem at hand but also work to heal and strengthen the relationship of those involved. This approach builds community through collaboratively “talking it out.”
- Ensure the underrepresented have access to legal services. In both Harlem and Red Hook, courts are taking unconventional approaches to ensure increased access to legal services for underrepresented litigants in an effort to spur neighborhood renewal, reduce crime, prevent eviction, and more.
- Link parents with support programs. To help non-custodial parents pay child support and improve parenting skills, a partnership of legal and community-based programs offer these parents services to help them be better parents—a win-win for the parents, children, and community.
- Let citizens know they can conveniently make payments. Offering payment options that include one-time, recurring, late, and partial payment gives citizens the best chance to make payments in a method that is most convenient and doable for them. This approach prevents undue hardship and greatly improves the likelihood of courts receiving payment.
Operational Benefits to the Court
By making these types of initiatives available and visible to citizens and embracing technology to help make these programs possible, courts not only improve access to justice for all but also gain operational benefits for the court. For example, with the right initiatives and tools, courts can:
- Implement workload tools to assists judges when making case assignments
- Enhance reporting capabilities
- More efficiently manage and resolve cases
- Adopt case processing time standards
- Put in place performance, customer service, and case management measures that help citizens while lessening the load on court staff
(Source: Arizona Supreme Court, Advancing Justice Together)
An Approach for All
Unconventional programs and initiatives combined with technology that enables flexible payment options helps bring justice to all while easing court processing. This approach facilitates the reallocation of court efforts and funds from timely manual processing to programs that visibly improve public access to justice.