The international Task Force on Justice is an initiative that launched in 2018 to help tackle the global access to justice crisis – a problem that currently sees more than four billion people around the world living outside the protection of the law. This week, the Task Force’s Innovation Working Group published “Innovating Justice: Needed & Possible”, a report that explores ways that innovation can help to address unmet legal needs, the investment possibilities that justice innovation provides, and parameters for increasing and improving justice innovation in support of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.3 – equal access to justice for all. The report offers examples of new technologies as well as technological upgrades that can help to advance access to justice and also calls for financing justice innovation.
“Innovating Justice: Needed & Possible”, the report of the Innovation Working Group of the Task Force on Justice is available online here: https://www.hiil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Report-of-the-Innovation-Working-Group-of-the-Task-Force-on-Justice.pdf.
The UK’s Ministry of Justice has published post-implementation reviews of Parts 1 and 2 of the the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). Part 1 of LASPO, which came into effect in 2013, deals with reforms to the scope of, eligibility for, and fees that fall within the ambit of legal aid in England Wales. Part 2 is concerned with reducing the costs of civil litigation and rebalancing the costs liabilities between claimants and defendants while ensuring that parties with a valid case are still able to bring or defend a claim.
At the introduction of the reforms to LASPO, the Government at the time committed to conducting post-implementation reviews to determine the impact of the changes relative to their objectives. Though the reviews have come under criticism from the Bar Council, among others, the Ministry of Justice has indicated that they are content with reports’ findings and do not plan to recommend amendments to the legislation.
Post-Implementation Review of Part 1 of LASPO is available online here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/777038/post-implementation-review-of-part-1-of-laspo.pdf.
Post-Implementation Review of Part 2 of LASPO is available online here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/777039/post-implementation-review-of-part-2-of-laspo.pdf.
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ quarterly journal, Dædalus, recently dedicated an entire issue to America’s access to justice crisis. The issue, which is available online for free, was edited by Lincoln Caplan, Lance Malcolm Liebman, and Rebecca L. Sandefur. This first-of-its-kind open access issue on access to justice by the well-known U.S. journal includes twenty-four essays by researchers, professors, access to justice advocates and others. The essays examine a range of civil legal services issues being faced by low-income Americans, various barriers to creating a responsive justice system, and opportunities for improving access to justice through technology, innovation and new approaches. The Dædalus issue on access to justice is available here: https://www.amacad.org/daedalus/access-to-justice.
Namati, an international organization that works to help people exercise their legal rights, has published a book that examines the work that community paralegals do to empower people all over the world to engage in societies, access justice and resolve disputes. This recently published resource is entitled “Community Paralegals and The Pursuit of Justice” and was edited by Vivek Maru (Namati) and Varun Gauri (The World Bank). It is the result of 8 years of research and writing by more than a dozen authors across 6 countries. Community Paralegals and The Pursuit of Justice can be accessed online for free here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/community-paralegals-and-the-pursuit-of-justice/219EB6294721B11BB25B1C8A3A2ACE29.
Research conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has found that cuts to legal aid in England and Wales have ‘decimated’ the legal help service. The data analyzed by BBC is from 2011-12 to present. Findings from this recent BBC investigation include the following:
- More than 15 million people now live in areas with one service provider
- Every year, an estimated 1,000,000 fewer claims are processed
- Approximately 50% of all community care legal aid providers are based in London
The investigation also highlights a more than 5-fold increase in self-representation that has resulted from cuts to the legal aid scheme.
Links to the methodology paper, and two full data sets are included in the BBC news article, published here: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-46357169.
A new survey in England and Wales reveals that the public agrees that ‘justice is just as important as health or education’. The far-reaching survey, which was commissioned by the Law Society, the Bar Council and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives has a number of other, important findings, including:
- a majority (76%) agree that people on low incomes should be able to get free legal advice
- for all types of legal problems canvassed in the survey, 50% of respondents or more indicated that they would feel ‘uncomfortable’ dealing with the problem without a lawyer
- 13% agreed that ‘the state should not have to pay for people’s legal expenses if they are accused of an offence that could earn jail time’
Findings from this survey are discussed in the press release, published on the Bar Council website here: https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/news-and-press-releases/2018/october/justice-as-important-as-education-and-health,-say-public/. 2,086 people responded to the survey which was carried out from 28-30 September 2018. Results were weighted to be representative of the distribution of the population.
The survey and what it reveals about the public’s views about access to justice in the UK will be a central theme during Justice Week, which runs from 29 October to 2 November 2018.
The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ), located at Osgoode Hall Law School, is joining forces with researchers in Kenya, Sierra Leone and South Africa to build a business case for scaling community-based justice services.
Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Community-Based Justice Research (CBJR) project is a newly-launched, collaborative research initiative that aims to advance collective understanding of the costs, opportunities, and challenges of community-based justice programs. In doing so, this project will play a significant role in supporting the improvement of access to justice at the community level.
This project speaks directly to Goal 16.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which requires countries to ensure equal access to justice for all of their citizens. Community-oriented justice services fill gaps in the delivery of legal services in many otherwise underserved areas; they facilitate early legal problem resolution, and they empower individuals to engage in society to protect their legal rights. By helping to provide the evidence needed to understand, assess and scale these types of access to justice programs, this project will help countries to better develop and deliver justice to their communities.
The Community-Based Justice Research project is planned in close collaboration with the IDRC, the Katiba Institute in Kenya, the Center for Alternative Policy Research and Innovation (CAPRI) in Sierra Leone and the Centre for Community Justice and Development (CCJD) in South Africa with support from Open Society Foundations (OSF), and will incorporate research methodologies and learnings from the CFCJ’s own 7-year (2011-2018) national, people-centered research project on “The Cost of Justice”.
The press release for the Community-Based Justice Research project is available on the CFCJ website here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/Press-Release-CFCJ-CBJR-International-Research-Initiative-Seeks-to-Scale-Access-to-Community-Justice.pdf.
To learn more, please also visit the Community-Based Justice Research project page here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/our-projects/community-based-justice-research-cbjr/.
The Cyberjustice Laboratory (Laboratoire de Cyberjustice) in Montreal has launched a 6-year research initiative to examine artificial intelligence in the justice sector. This Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded project includes 16 sub-projects, and a multi-disciplinary and international team of 45 researchers and 42 partners.
The Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT) research project by the Cyberjustice Laboratory will provide greater understanding of the socio-legal and ethical underpinnings of applying and integrating artificial intelligence tools within the justice system. More information about this important research initiative, being led Professor Karim Benyekhlef, Direcor of the Cyberjustice Laboratory, is available in the press release, available in English here: http://cyberjustice.openum.ca/files/sites/102/PressReleaseACT.pdf, and in French here: http://www.cyberjustice.ca/files/sites/102/CommuniqueAJC-VFinale.pdf. Visit the Autonomy through Cyberjustice Technologies (ACT) website here: https://www.ajcact.org/.
The recently published “Assisted Digital Support for Civil Justice System Users: Demand, Design, & Implementation” report offers insight into the use of ‘assisted digital support’ (ADS) to facilitate access to online civil justice services among low-income earners, the elderly, people living in social housing and people without degrees in the UK. The report indicates that ADS services, including face-to-face assistance and web chat can be useful for engaging people online. The report also recommends additional research into whether or to what extent ADS services are helpful for people without “legal capability”. Quoting the report, this article highlights the following: “That users undertake a range of activities online is not to say that they have the capability to undertake legal processes online”.
“Assisted Digital Support for Civil Justice System Users: Demand, Design, & Implementation” was prepared for the Civil Justice Council (UK) by Catrina Denvir, with the assistance of Reem Ayad, Nerissa Morales Cordoba, Mbeti Michuki, Adel Msolly and Annie Wood. The full report can be accessed here: https://www.judiciary.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/cjc-report-on-assisted-digital-support.pdf.
The Judicial College of England and Wales has updated the Equal Treatment Bench Book. The Judicial College, which is responsible for training the courts’ judiciary, recently published a revised, 422-page Equal Treatment Bench Book that includes new sections on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, modern slavery and multicultural communication, expanded sections on litigants-in-person (self-represented litigants) as well as glossaries, useful suggestions and more. All information provided in the revised Equal Treatment Bench Book adheres to the existing legal framework. The newly updated Equal Treatment Bench Book is available online here: www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/equal-treatment-bench-book-february2018-v5-02mar18.pdf.