Goal Group V. Access to Justice for All, Statement of Goal:
This is the report of the
Access to Justice for All Goal Group. It presents seven objectives
and fifty-seven strategies which the Goal Group took care to express as
succinctly as possible, while incorporating the key concepts. See Sections
III and V.
By contrast, the goal of the remainder of this report is comprehensiveness. It compiles and assesses information used to develop and refine the objectives and strategies. The report contains this introductory narrative highlighting the Goal Group's process and conclusions, the list and (where applicable) rankings of the objectives and strategies, summaries of rationale for the goal. Other working documents that are not included with this report are: a list of all the meetings held by the Goal Group, a bibliography of major resources used, copies of written comments received from those invited to review draft strategies and objectives, a list of persons asked to provide input and an analysis of data received from the pro bono survey undertaken.
The concept of Access to Justice For All weaves through the legal and broader communities.
At its initial meeting in January, 1997, the Goal Group noted that "Access to Justice for All" was such a broad concept that this inquiry would not be able to incorporate all of its social, legal and other implications. Therefore, the Goal Group did not primarily approach this topic in philosophical terms, but rather worked to identify how "Access to Justice" could best be addressed by the State Bar of Michigan within the range of its activities and resources. This would include the extent to which the State Bar may be able to provide direct resources as well as how it could work within itself and with others to accomplish the objectives and strategies in the legal and broader communities. Nevertheless, the Goal Group was mindful of the degree to which access to justice issues are relevant throughout all aspects of the State Bar's work. For that reason, the Goal Group has placed the following objective as the first in importance:
Strategies Are Prioritized But Often Among Equals.
The Goal Group did list the
strategies under each objective in relative order of importance. However,
we wish to note that even among strategies, prioritizing one above another
is an artificial exercise. This is because some may be equally important
or because efforts on one may facilitate success with others. For example,
the strategies related to the objective of assuring subsidized civil legal
services to those in need lists a number of strategies first which focus
immediate attention on the need for resources, improved delivery methods
and economies of scale. There is no question that these items are important.
Nonetheless, the last strategy listed may be equally important, because
expanding efforts beyond the poor to the near poor and less affluent moderate
income may very well also help the poor. In view of this, the Goal Group
has the following implementation suggestion: plan for all strategies simultaneously,
but implement them as possible over time. Simultaneous planning will ensure
that those strategies which are implemented later are integrated into considerations
for those which are implemented earlier. Even though the Goal Group did
attempt to prioritize the strategies, the perception that those listed
last are unimportant would not be correct. Much effort was given to include
all strategies essential to a given objective. It would not be consistent
with the Goal Group's approach if strategies with lower rankings were deleted
in future prioritization.
Information Was Obtained from Written Resources, Input from Experts and an Original Survey.
The Goal Group prepared a bibliography of written material that assisted members of the Goal Group. Of particular value was the Agenda for Access: The American People and Civil Justice, the final 1996 report on the ABA's comprehensive legal needs study. The Michigan Plan: A State-Based Plan for the Delivery of Civil Legal Services to the Poor and several other state's plans were also of great assistance in reviewing issues identified by others who have studied access issues, as well as the work to date of the State Bar of Michigan's Access to Justice for All Task Force.
Perhaps the resource of most significance and help to the Goal Group, however, were the thoughtful, substantive and often lengthy letters sent by 26 of the 53 experts which the Goal Group invited to comment on its draft strategies and objectives. Persons within the justice system in Michigan were identified for each of the seven objectives and asked to share their experience and knowledge with the Goal Group about those particular objectives or any other objective on which the expert wished to comment. The value of these written replies cannot be overstated. While the Goal Group members' own experience and knowledge covered a broad arena, the input of those invited to comment assured that a greater level of expertise was available for these complex topics. The Goal Group used much of what the commentors submitted to revise and improve the draft objectives and strategies. Occasionally, the Goal Group did not adopt a suggestion offered in one of the letters, but even in those instances, the Goal Group's process was improved through the value of assessing the idea or weighing it against other suggestions.
The Goal Group determined
early on that increased pro bono services would surely appear in
the final recommendations but that data on what volunteer services are
already being done by Michigan lawyers was insufficient to help the Goal
Group develop the idea further. In cooperation with the State Bar's Pro
Bono Involvement Committee (PBIC), the Goal Group developed a survey document
to be sent to all in-state Michigan lawyers. The Goal Group requested and
received funding for this survey from the State Bar. Some 2,500 of the
4,000+ responses to the survey were entered into computer data by the time
the Goal Group concluded its efforts. In finalizing the pro bono
objectives and strategies, the Goal Group considered the general trends
apparent from that partial data. Also, sending this survey and a cover
letter from State Bar President Victoria Roberts to all lawyers in Michigan
supported the PBIC's goals of emphasizing the State Bar's commitment to
pro bono and highlighting the importance of pro bono services.
The final data will be turned over to the PBIC to continue to review volunteer
services that lawyers provide and how to encourage more.
The Goal Group used the required format for stating objectives and strategies but added examples.
The Goal Group followed the November 26, 1997 work guide calendar and format for completing its work. Therefore, tactics with which to execute strategies were not developed. However, some ideas which may seem to be tactics were occasionally added as illustrative examples. These examples are not to be read as exclusive because other types of activities not listed could also be designed when the planning process gets to the tactics stage. Nevertheless, the Goal Group prefers that the examples listed not be edited out of the statements because the examples were only added where the Goal Group felt they helped to explain the intent of the strategy.
The Goal Group's work product is relevant to the Access to Justice Task Force.
The Goal Group discussed several times how its efforts and those of the Access to Justice Task Force were related or possibly duplicative. Although the Goal Group clearly understood that the two groups had different charges, it was also apparent that the content on which they focused was fundamentally the same. The Goal Group's working assumption was that the long range planning process efforts to develop objectives and strategies on access to justice would lead to broad policy statements helping to guide the overall efforts of the State Bar. The Goal Group understood the Task Force to be working to ensure access to justice activities are coordinated and integrated in light of the overall access to justice policies of the State Bar. For these issues, it was most helpful to have Al Butzbaugh, Chair of the Task Force, also serve on the Goal Group. The Goal Group is hopeful that its work will not only assist the overall long range planning process but can also help the Task Force refine the direction of its work.
The Chair expresses appreciation to Goal Group members and others who assisted.
As Chair of the Goal Group, I would like to thank the Goal Group members--Lambro Niforos, Jonathan Rowe, Linda K. Rexer, and Alfred M. Butzbaugh, Jr.-- for their commitment to this challenging task. I was as impressed by the hard work of these people as I was by the value of their insights and knowledge. At the beginning, it was difficult to imagine how we might sculpt a product that could be helpful to access to justice efforts from raw clay. The list of meetings and materials only hint at the amount of time Goal Group members gave to this process. I am grateful to them for their work on this important issue. I am also grateful for the excellent help from Rick Winder which kept our work moving along and later to MaryAnn Sarosi who joined the State Bar staff as the new Access to Justice Associate Executive Director after our Goal Group began its work. We hope our efforts will help form a foundation for activities she and the State Bar can undertake. I am also grateful to Larkin Chenault and Dan Kim for helping with and supporting this process.
Richard A. Soble, Chair
Access to Justice for All Goal Group, State Bar of Michigan Long Range
Note on Listed Order of
Objectives: While the linear nature of our language requires that these
objectives be listed one after another, the only objective which carries
a priority is Objective A. It is first in priority simply because it provides
the context for coordination and integration of all the Access to Justice
for All objectives. The labeling of the other six objectives B through
G is for identification only. It would be inconsistent with Objective A
to rank the other objectives, all of which must work together in an integrated
fashion for Objective A to succeed.
A. Assure that all of the State Bar's efforts
to expand and improve access to justice are developed and implemented in
an integrated fashion to ensure a coordinated, comprehensive and effective
approach and that adequate staffing and resources are committed to this
B. Subsidized (free or reduced fee) civil legal services are provided to those in greatest need in a quality, comprehensive, and integrated delivery system.
C. The profession maximizes the amount of civil legal services provided pro bono to those in need.
D. Appointed counsel are available in all appropriate circumstances and they provide effective representation to all their clients.
E. Promote Alternative Dispute Resolution availability for all.
F. Legal self-help and law-related assistance by non-lawyers is maximized within the bounds of the concerns of the profession and the public.
G. Ensure that options for obtaining information and appropriate referrals are available to all facing a legal situation.
These words capture the challenge--yet
the opportunity--that lies before us. The goal of access to justice transcends
all bounds--economic, ethnic, and gender, to name a few. Yet it is not
enough to say, "There is the courthouse. Anyone can use it." The concept
of access to justice for all would be mere lip service if it did not incorporate
the concept of "meaningful access." While it is difficult to define "meaningful
access to justice for all," this report attempts to frame it in terms that
can incorporate many facets of access to justice and yet at the same time
provide some realistic strategies for bringing access to justice into reality.
1. Continue the Task Force on Access to Justice for All to oversee and coordinate Access to Justice efforts, with the Task Force assuring the involvement and input of relevant others where appropriate.
2. As a matter of practice, matters relating
to access to justice should be referred to the Task Force for evaluation
and comment before presentation to the Board of Commissioners.
3. The State Bar should institute systems to assure that all relevant State Bar entities are regularly informed of Access to Justice for All activities (e.g., broader dissemination of Task Force minutes), including local bars and others when relevant, and that minutes of committees which are represented on the Task Force are distributed to all Task Force Members.
4. The Task Force on Access to Justice for All should biennially produce or update a written work plan to achieve the Access to Justice for All objectives and strategies, taking care to assure integration with implementation of the State Bar Long Range Plan and the Michigan Plan for Legal Services as appropriate.
5. The State Bar should biennially hold a statewide conference on access to justice to report on its Access to Justice for All efforts and to seek input from the public and legal community on the Access to Justice for All goals and objectives.
6. Encourage the development of community partnerships and strategic alliances with non-legal social services providers to produce systemic change, particularly in addressing the needs of low-income clients.
7. Promote commitment among all State Bar entities to support access to justice efforts through increased coordination and strategic partnerships (e.g., access to justice efforts which are helpful to Image of the Profession Task Force goals).
4. Encourage the development of innovative intake
and referral systems that provide more efficient client service and utilization
of pro bono attorneys. Coordinate and integrate as appropriate.
5. Coordinate and integrate pro bono work with the work of local legal services providers; utilize appropriate technology to improve the efficiency of the pro bono referral process and the delivery of pro bono services (e.g. electronic bulletin board).
6. Promote universal participation in the Michigan Voluntary Pro bono Standard.
7. Promote reporting of pro bono services and financial donations, and explore court-required reporting of the same.
8. Develop pro bono opportunities for lawyers in large law firms, for the handling of complex litigation cases, and for the handling of cases that cannot be adequately handled by local legal services providers due to funding or other restrictions.
9. Develop pro bono opportunities for non-litigators and lawyers not in private practice, as well as work to expand ways judges can promote pro bono.
10. Distribute to local bar groups and agencies effective ways to quickly select and receive cases to get to pro bono attorneys who are trained and ready.
11. Increase methods by which the organized bar and society at large recognize and reward pro bono attorneys.
Objective E. Promote Alternative Dispute Resolution availability for all.
4. Promote increased awareness in participation
by individuals in resolving their own differences especially through locally
based programs (such as Community Dispute Resolution Centers where individuals
resolve their differences before going to court) and early education initiatives
(such as student/peer mediation programs in the schools).
5. Collaborate with non-lawyer peers to develop Alternative Dispute Resolution processes for a wide range of dispute both within and outside of court.
6. Promote the use of mediation, facilitation, or other collaborative dispute resolution techniques early in the life of a case in order to streamline discovery, encourage settlement discussions, and to attempt early resolution.
7. Promote the training of third party neutrals in substantive issue areas to compliment their mediation training.
8. Encourage the teaching of collaborative dispute resolution processes in law schools.
9. Help set appropriate litigant expectations of their court experience and outline other dispute resolution processes through such mechanisms as litigant orientation programs.