The Bach Commission on Access to Justice was created in 2015 to develop “realistic but radical proposals…for re-establishing the right to justice as a fundamental public entitlement” in England and Wales. Recent changes in funding and eligibility requirements for legal aid have placed even more strain to a justice system that is said to be in crisis. In response to what the Commission argues are “widespread” and “varied” problems in the legal system, their final report proposes a legally enforceable Right to Justice Act that will ultimately serve to “create a new legal framework that will…transform access to justice”.
The Right to Justice, the final report of the Bach Commission is available online here.
The Crisis in the Justice System in England and Wales, the Commission’s interim report published in November, 2016 is available online here.
In 2014, a joint Working Group of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP) collaborated to formulate and propose national legal aid benchmarks for Canada. After much consultation and discussion, the national benchmarks have now been completed. These benchmarks are guiding principles to achieve the shared goal of a national, integrated system of public legal assistance focused on improving access to justice and meeting the needs of disadvantaged people across Canada. These 6 national legal aid benchmarks, under headings of an overall vision, scope of services, priorities for service, spectrum of service, quality of service and an integrated service delivery sector, capture current evidence about legal aid and define pathways for the future, are intended to provide a foundation for national indicators with common data measurement.
To explain these concepts further, the CBA has authored a separate report further elaborating on the rationale and potential of national benchmarks for Canada.
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L’Association du barreau canadien (ABC) et l’Association des régimes d’aide juridique (ARAJ) ont collaboré pour formuler des normes nationales de services d’assistance juridique pour le Canada. Ces normes sont des principes directeurs visant l’atteinte de l’objectif commun d’un régime national et intégré de services d’assistance juridique publics axés sur l’amélioration de l’accès à la justice et sur la réponse aux besoins des personnes défavorisées au Canada. Les six normes – vision globale, portée des services, priorité des services, éventail des services, qualité des services et secteur de prestation de services intégrés – expriment des indices matériels actuels au sujet de l’assistance juridique et définissent des voies d’avenir. Elles procurent un fondement d’élaboration pour des indicateurs nationaux assortis de mesures communes de données.
Un rapport séparé de l’ABC, Un cadre national pour combler les besoins juridiques : Proposition de normes nationales de services d’assistance juridique publics, expose la raison d’être et le potentiel de ces normes nationales pour le Canada.
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A new access to justice initiative has opened in Vancouver: The Rise Women’s Legal Centre.
The Centre is a full service nonprofit law firm focused on family law, and is a partnership between West Coast LEAF and the University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law. It is the “first of its kind in BC and will focus on providing women with much-needed legal representation in family law and related areas”.
For more information visit: http://www.westcoastleaf.org/2016/05/24/rise-womens-legal-centre-open-today/.
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.
A recent article published on CBC News Canada states that “an ‘average’ 5-day civil trial cost $56k last year, beyond the reach of most average people”
Though provinces across Canada fund legal aid, the maximum yearly income that qualifies most Canadians for legal aid is so low that it excludes many who are in need of help.
In Middle-class injustice: Too wealthy for legal aid, too pinched for ‘average’ lawyers’ fees, Laura Fraser discusses legal aid, access to justice and the Canadian justice system. Read the article in full here.
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
A Toronto-based lawyers group has launched the “Self-Rep Navigators” to direct legal services towards self-represented litigants. Described as “a hub for connecting self-represented litigants to supportive lawyers and high quality resources both online and offline”, Self-Rep Navigators have established a website at www.limitedscoperetainers.ca and list lawyers who will take clients on a limited scope retainer/ at fixed fees for civil and criminal matters, and those offering the same types of services to family clients.
Heather (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Michael (email@example.com) would like to hear from any other lawyers interested in being a part of this group.
You can find the full write up about Self-Rep Navigators here.
Although the Ontario government’s unprecedented multi-year commitment to increasing legal aid funding continues to move forward, the National Self Represented Litigant Project cautions that celebration may be premature. In a recent blog post, the NSRLP congratulates the decision to increase legal aid funding, but poses a few critical questions about the implementation of aid distribution which has yet to take place.
A group of 11 Toronto family lawyers are petitioning the Law Society to lift its contingency fee prohibition. They argue that the current regulatory framework poses a disadvantage to parties with access to fewer resources. The lawyers also point out that the high number of self-represented litigants in the family justice system warrants a change to current billing structures.
To read more about the petition, see this Toronto Star article.
Halton Community Legal Services in partnership with a group of regional intermediaries recently implemented a web-based Legal Health Check Up (LHC) tool. The online survey has boosted clinic intake numbers by 1/3 since its release by helping users identify legal problems and directing them to the clinic. This report, produced by Ab Currie in partnership with the Canadian Forum for Civil Justice (CFCJ) further explains the project.