An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and their use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released a report entitled: “An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta.”

Generally speaking, early neutral evaluation programs are court-based programs that require the parties to a dispute to attend a neutral third party evaluator early on the life of a lawsuit. At these hearings, the parties present their positions in the case and receive the feedback of the evaluator on the merits of those positions and the likely result of the lawsuit if it went to trial. The evaluator may assist the parties in settling all or some of the issues in dispute. However even when a full settlement is not reached, the hearing provides a useful reality check for litigants, helps to clarify the issues in dispute and prepares the parties for future judicial and extrajudicial dispute resolution processes.

Research conducted by The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family shows that these hearings result in high satisfaction rates for litigants, lawyers and evaluators. They promote settlement and the taking of positions supported by the law, and save litigants time, money and emotional stress as a result. They also provide savings to the justice system by reducing the number of contested applications and reducing the number and length of trials.

Based on these findings, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family proposes that a working group be established to explore the implementation of a pilot early neutral evaluation project in Alberta. The Institute makes a variety of recommendations on the optimum characteristics of such a pilot project, drawn from their research, and on the issues the working group must address in its deliberations. In their view, the proposed pilot project aligns well with the objectives and guiding principles of the Reforming the Family Justice System Initiative presently exploring means of improving the family justice system in Alberta, and may be ideally suited for adoption and evaluation as a prototype by the Initiative.
The authors of the report are Joanne Paetsch (paetsch@ucalgary.ca) and John-Paul Boyd (jp.boyd@ucalgary.ca). Please address any comments, questions or concerns you may have to them.

In addition, this report pairs nicely with the conclusions reached in the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family’s 2014 report, “Self-Represented Litigants in Family Law Disputes: Contrasting the Views of Alberta Family Law Lawyers and Judges of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench” by John-Paul Boyd and Lorne Bertrand. This earlier report concludes that self-represented litigants tend to take unreasonable positions in family law disputes which ultimately reduce the likelihood that these disputes will resolve without a trial. When cases involving self-represented litigants do reach trial, they tend to require more adjournments and take longer to resolve as a result of self-represented litigants’ unfamiliarity with the rules of court, the rules of evidence and the law that applies to their cases, and the results self-represented litigants achieve tend to be worse than the results they would have achieved had they had counsel. An early neutral evaluation program which includes an objective appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ positions would likely be of great assistance to these litigants.

For more information about the other projects the Institute is engaged in or developing, please visit www.crilf.ca/current_projects.htm.

University Researchers and Justice System Stakeholders Unite for Access to Law and Access to Justice (ADAJ) Initiative in Quebec

The University of Montreal has announced the launch of a major access to justice research initiative that will bring together more than 40 researchers (from 9 universities) and 44 justice stakeholders, including the Superior Court of Québec, the Court of Québec, the Ministry of Justice of Québec, local legal services organizations, the Québec Bar Association, the Chamber of Notaries, SOQUIJ and Éducaloi. (The full list of partners is available here.)

“The objective of this initiative is to engage a series of pilot projects aimed at redirecting the focus of the judicial system on the individual citizen and thereby transforming justice into a community project,” states Pierre Noreau, scientific director of the project, researcher at the Public Law Research Centre (CRDP) and professor with the Faculty of Law at Université de Montréal.  The full press release is available in English here.

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L’Université de Montréal a annoncé  le lancement d’un important consortium de recherche consacré au thème de l’accès au droit et à la justice. ADAJ regroupe 42 chercheurs et collaborateurs de 9 universités et 44 partenaires de la justice. Il regroupe notamment la Cour supérieure, la Cour du Québec de même que le ministère de la Justice du Québec, de nombreuses cliniques juridiques de quartier, le Barreau du Québec, la Chambre des notaires, SOQUIJ et Éducaloi.

« Le but que nous poursuivons est de réaliser toute une série de projets-pilotes susceptibles de remettre le citoyen au coeur du système juridique pour faire enfin de la justice un projet collectif », affirme Pierre Noreau, directeur scientifique du projet, chercheur au Centre de recherche en droit public (CRDP) et professeur à la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal.

Le communiqué de presse est disponible ici.

The Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report, Methodology and Survey

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) has released several new publications from their Cost of Justice research project, which examines the cumulative social and economic costs associated with everyday legal problems. Stemming from this project are the following recent publications:

1)   “The Everyday Legal Problems and the Costs of Justice in Canada: Overview Report”

Gathering data from over 3,000 survey respondents, the Overview Report, available on the CFCJ website here, looks at the public’s experience with the justice system and the various costs (ex: monetary, physical and emotional) that it imposes.

2)   “Design And Conduct of the Cost of Justice Survey” 

This publication sets out the specific methodology used by the CFCJ research team to collate the survey data. The method of sampling, data collection, and data processing are discussed at length here.

3)   “Everyday Legal Problems and Cost of Justice: Survey” 

The Cost of Justice Survey was structured to determine the number of respondents who had experienced 84 specific legal problems. The 84 problems were grouped into 17 types, with a section of the survey being devoted to each type. The Survey can be accessed here.

4)   “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada: Fact Sheet”

This (updated and revised) Fact Sheet summarizes some of the key findings arising out of the Overview Report. The Fact Sheet can be accessed here.

Paths to Justice and the Resolution of Consumer Problems: Findings from the 2014 Everyday Legal Problems and the Costs of Civil Justice in Canada National Survey

Are there identifiable patterns in the ways that Canadians of different ethnicities respond to consumer problems? This is the primary question guiding Paths to Justice and the Resolution of Consumer Problems, a Canadian Forum on Civil Justice Cost of Justice Project report by Dr. Les Jacobs, David Kryszajtys & Matthew McManus.

This paper explores consumer problems and commonalities in paths to resolution based on ethnicity, income and education, using data gathered from the CFCJ’s 2014 Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada survey. Read Paths to Justice and the Resolution of Consumer Problems: Findings from the 2014 Everyday Legal Problems and the Costs of Civil Justice in Canada National Survey in full in full here.

Selected Annotated Bibliography

As part of the Cost of Justice project, The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice recently published a Selected Annotated Bibliography of some of the major national and regional legal needs surveys from 1990 to present.

This bibliography is a great resource for anyone hoping to expand their understanding of legal needs and everyday justiciable problems. To view the Selected Annotated Bibliography, visit: http://bit.ly/CFCJ-CoJBibliography

Access to Justice 101

Kathryn E. Thomson, PhD Candidate, UVic (Law), along with several AJRN listserv subscribers, have indicated publications that they would include on their “Access to Justice Top Ten Must-Read” list. There is a lot of valuable research and commentary worth revisiting or, for those of you who are new to the topic, discovering for the first time. Here are the recommendations:

  1. Genn, Hazel. Paths to Justice: What People Do and Think About Going to Law (Portland, Ore: Hart Publishing, 1999).
  2. Cromwell, Thomas A. “Access to Justice: Towards a Collaborative and Strategic Approach” (2012) 63 U.N.B.L.J. 38.
  3. Friedman, Lawrence M. “Access to Justice: Social and Historical Context” in Mauro Cappelletti and John Weiser (ed) The Florence Access-to-Justice Project (Milan: Doti.A.Giuffe Editore, 1978) Vol II, Book I.
  4. Macfarlane, Julie. “The National Self-Represented Litigants Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants” (Kingsville, Ontario: Self-Published Report, April 2013).
  5. Reports for the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, February 12, 2013. Online: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice: http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/action-committee
  6. Wexler, Stephen. “Practicing Law for Poor People” (1970) 79(5) The Yale Law Journal
  7. Currie, Ab. The Legal Problems of Everyday Life: The Nature, Extent and Consequences of Justiciable Problems Experienced by Canadians (Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada, 2007)
  8. Hadfield, Gillian. “Higher Demand, Lower Supply? A comparative assessment of the legal resource landscape for ordinary Americans” (Feb. 2010) Fordham Urban Law Journal
  9. Australian Government – Productivity Committee – Access to Justice Arrangements (2014): http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/access-justice/report
  10. McEown, Carol. “Civil Legal Needs Research Report (Report prepared for the Law Foundation of BC March 2009, 2d ed) online: Law Foundation of British Columbia: http://www.lawfoundationbc.org/wp-content/uploads/Civil-Legal-Needs-Research-FINAL.pdf
  11. Brewin, Alison & Stephens, Lindsay. Legal Aid Denied (2004): http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2004-REPORT-Legal-Aid-Denied-Women-and-the-Cuts-to-Legal-Services-in-BC.pdf
  12. Brewin, Alison & Govender, Kasari. Rights-Based Legal Aid (2010): http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2010-REPORT-Rights-Based-Legal-Aid-Rebuilding-BCs-Broken-System.pdf
  13. Track, Laura, (in collaboration with Shahnaz Rahman and Kasari Govender. Putting Justice Back on the Map (2014): http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2014-REPORT-Putting-Justice-Back-on-the-Map.pdf
  14. CBA Access to Justice Committee. Reaching equal justice report: an invitation to envision and act (2013): http://www.cba.org/CBA/equaljustice/secure_pdf/EqualJusticeFinalReport-eng.pdf
  15. Roderick MacDonald’s work on access to justice in Canada – a list of his words can be found here: http://people.mcgill.ca/files/roderick.macdonald/macdonald-pubs.pdf
  16. Cohl, Karen & Thomson, George. “Connecting Across Language and Distance: Linguistic and Rural Access to Legal Information and Services” (2008): http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/The-Connecting-Report.pdf
  17. CLEO’s Centre for Research and Innovation host a research database through the PLE Learning Exchange website. The database is an annotated bibliography of research on public legal education and information (PLEI) issues from Canada and other jurisdictions, and also contains some papers on A2J generally where PLEI is referenced: http://www.plelearningexchange.ca/research/research-database/
  18. Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. “Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change” (2013): http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/sites/default/files/docs/2013/AC_Report_English_Final.pdf
  19. The National Self-Represented Litigants Project blog by Professor Julie Macfarlane houses many A2J articles: http://representingyourselfcanada.com/

Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive and additional suggestions are welcome. What publications would you include on your “Top Ten” list?

Send an email to communications@cfcj-fcjc.org with “AJRN subscribe” in the subject line to join the conversation taking place on the listserv!

Civil Non-Family Cases Filed in the Supreme Court of BC

Please find attached the recently released Final Report of the CFCJ’s Attrition Study. This study, which is a part of the CFCJ’s larger Cost of Justice project, aims to examine the outcome of unresolved, civil, non-family cases in the BC Supreme Court and assess the level of satisfaction among claimants. In addition to presenting the study’s survey findings, the report makes several recommendations that could potentially improve research that attempts to collect data about court users experiences. You can access the report here.

Justice, not Just Access: Effective Outcomes for Children Children’s Legal Rights – the Fundamentals

In May 2015, The Honourable Donna Martinson, Q.C., presented a paper entitled “Justice, not Just Access: Effective Outcomes for Children Children’s Legal Rights – the Fundamentals” at the Access to Justice for Children Conference – CLEBC in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The paper begins with an introduction on justice for children and moves on to an overview of how the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child applies in Canada. This overview includes both a description of how Canada has implemented this convention and how this related to the Charter.

The paper further goes on to discuss the Committee on the Rights of the Child, its role, the four general principles of the Convention and an evaluation of State compliance. It also analyses when children’s rights must be considered and what Canada’s obligations are under the Convention.

In the final section of the paper, “A Roadmap for Change for Children – Access to Justice Phase 2”, Honourable Donna Martinson “respectfully suggest(s) that now is the time to integrate into our national access to justice discussions a specific roadmap which recognizes the special considerations that apply in order to achieve justice for children…”

A subscription to the webinar archive can be accessed at http://www.cle.bc.ca/onlinestore/productdetails.aspx?cid=1134

Semple Explores Civil Justice Costs for Canadians

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Noel Semple has recently released a paper contributing to the ongoing discussion surrounding the cost of civil justice in Canada. He draws attention to the financially burdensome nature of civil justice claims, as well as temporal and psychological costs involved with legal disputes. His thorough investigation of the issue draws on the National Self Represented Litigants Project for quantitative information about the true costs of accessing civil justice. The paper is available on SSRN.