Access to Justice Triple Aim Initiative Launches in BC

Leaders from more than 50 justice organizations in British Columbia have signed on to support the newly launched Access to Justice Triple Aim initiative. Endorsing Triple Aim signifies a commitment to working to improve access to civil and family justice in BC in three important ways:

  • Improving access to justice at the population (or sub-population) level
  • Improving the experience of users who need access to justice
  • Improving costs, which includes reducing costs in other sectors because of the benefits of improved access to justice

Access to Justice Triple Aim was convened by Access to Justice BC, a network of justice sector organizations and stakeholders and members of the public connected by a shared vision to advance access to justice in BC. The Triple Aim concept originates from the healthcare sector where improvements in the US healthcare system have similarly been coordinated around three goals – health, cost and care.

The press release for the Access to Justice Triple Aim initiative is available on the Access to Justice BC website here: https://accesstojusticebc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Cross-sector-justice-agreement.pdf. Additional information is also available here: https://accesstojusticebc.ca/2019/06/the-triple-aim-a-cross-sector-vision/ and in a Slaw blog published here: http://www.slaw.ca/2019/06/13/over-50-justice-organizations-agree-to-a-common-access-to-justice-goal-that-puts-user-experience-at-the-centre/.

New Report Examines Legal Aid Service Delivery in British Columbia

A new report that explores ways to improve legal aid service delivery in British Columbia is now available. The report is based on an external review and consultations with the public, carried out in Fall 2018. This recently published report examines ways to make service delivery more efficient and user-friendly for B.C. residents and includes 25 recommendations. Roads to Revival, An External Review of Legal Aid Service Delivery in British Columbia was conducted for the Attorney General of B.C. by Jamie Maclaren, QC. It is available online here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Roads_to_Revival-Maclaren_Legal_Aid_Review-25FEB19.pdf.

UK Ministry of Justice Publishes Post-Implementation Reviews of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO)

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.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Publishes Issue on Access to Justice Crisis

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.

New Book Highlights Work of Community Paralegals in Facilitating 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.

Rise Women’s Legal Centre Publishes Evaluation Report

The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is a community legal centre located in Vancouver, B.C. that helps self-identifying, low-income women access family law services and learn about their legal rights. Rise recently published an Evaluation Report that provides details on services they provided between September 2017 and August 2018. The report includes information on the populations they served, the legal needs of their clients, factors that led clients to seek out services at Rise, the extent to which Rise met their legal needs, among a range of other topics.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Most clients (almost 50%) needed legal services for family law matters affecting their children, including help with custody/access/ parenting time matters and child support matters.
  • A significant number of clients sought legal services for matters which would contribute to their financial self-sufficiency, including property division (30%) and spousal support (27%).
  • More than 20% had accessed legal services prior to contacting Rise. These included clients who had run out of money to pay for a lawyer or exhausted their legal aid coverage accessing prior services.

The Rise Women’s Legal Services One-Year Evaluation Report is available in full here: Rise Women’s Legal Services – One-Year Evaluation Report (Diana TIndall) 2018-10-14.

Legal Aid Cuts in the UK Found to Leave Millions Without Access to Legal Help

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.

Access to Justice: Highs and Lows of Pro Bono Week

By Thomas Cromwell

The last week of October is Pro Bono Week, a global celebration of the pro bono ethic in our profession. Across Canada and around the world, thousands of legal professionals provide their services without cost for the public good. In Canada, where there is a wide and growing gap between the need for legal services and people’s ability to gain access to them, pro bono is a part of the effort necessary to fill that gap.

We entered Pro Bono Week on a wave of optimism and achievement generated by the Seventh National Pro Bono Conference held in Vancouver on Oct. 4 and 5. The packed agenda included presentations by the chief justice of Canada, the chief justice of British Columbia, the attorney general of British Columbia and the president of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

The message from the top was clear: pro bono work by lawyers is part of our professional responsibility and its importance to the welfare of our community cannot be overstated. The large attendance at the conference and the lively engagement evident in all of the sessions generated optimism and enthusiasm.

While we can and must do more, there is much to celebrate.

But not all of the news about pro bono is good. Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) has indicated that in December it will have to close its court-based programs — two in Toronto and one in Ottawa — for want of funding for the administrative support essential to running these programs. PBO says that each year, volunteer lawyers help more than 18,000 clients in the civil, non-family justice system and, at the same time, reduce delays in the courts’ handling of these matters. An evaluation of the programs concluded that they provided a 10:1 return on investment. In other words, the public purse saved $10 for every dollar in funding. But that is apparently not enough to persuade potential funders to inject the modest resources needed to assure that these programs continue.

David W. Scott, one of the “parents” of these programs, has for many years spent a morning each month at the Law Help Centre at the Ottawa courthouse. He told me that during his October shift, he saw five people:

  • a single mother who is being pursued by a government department for support payments;
  • a friend of an Arabic woman who speaks no English who is defending herself from a landlord’s claim for rent;
  • a young man on parole who was the victim of a fraudulent claim when he was incarcerated;
  • a young mother who was being sued for return of employment insurance; and
  • a woman being sued for alleged non-payment of taxes.

Through the court-based program, David was able to provide modest but critical help. The closure of the Law Help Centre will mean that people like those who David saw — people in their thousands — will be left to their own devices. The need for these services is obvious and compelling.

The willingness of legal professionals to provide these pro bono services has been demonstrated. The business case for doing so seems unanswerable. But even this is not enough to save these programs.

Scott says that he is heartbroken. The rest of us should be ashamed. Who can seriously contend that we cannot find the modest resources needed to maintain these valuable services? If we wanted to, we would.

 

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on November 5, 2018. It is the twelfth article in The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s exclusive Lawyer’s Daily column dedicated to access to civil and family justice.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and chairs the Chief Justice’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. He retired from the Supreme Court of Canada in September of 2016 and is now senior counsel to the national litigation practice at Borden Ladner Gervais.

International research project seeks to scale access to community-based justice

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/.

New Report Examines Alberta’s Mandatory Early Intervention Case Conferencing Pilot Project

The early intervention case conferences (EICCs) is a pilot project that was implemented by Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench in September, 2017 in an effort to address the increasing delays until family law cases can be tried, increasing numbers of litigants without counsel, and the short complement of the bench relative to the province’s population.

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) recently conducted an evaluation of the EICC in order to determine if the Early Intervention Case Conference project is meeting its stated goals. The evaluation provides insights into what is working and what could be improved in the pilot project, and explores whether the project should be implemented as a permanent part of the family law litigation process in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

An Evaluation of Alberta’s Mandatary Early Intervention Case Conference Pilot Project final report is available online here: http://www.crilf.ca/Documents/EICC_Evaluation_-_August_2018.pdf.