The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect justice systems around the world in unprecedented ways. From widespread court closures to dramatic increases in incidences of domestic violence, employment, housing and other civil justice problems, the impacts are extensive. They are also present additional challenges for vulnerable and marginalized populations.
A new report by UNODC and UNDP presents several considerations for legal practitioners and policy makers to help ensure access to justice during the current global health crisis. The “Ensuring Access to Justice in the Context of COVID-19″ report is divided into 3 sections: Preparation, Response and Recovery. While the report does not seek to be exhaustive in its discussion of important measures to consider during the crisis (as well as during subsequent waves of outbreaks), it highlights important considerations for the justice community to effectively respond to challenges in the short-, medium- and long-term.
“Ensuring Access to Justice in the Context of COVID-19” is available for download here: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/ensuring-access-justice-context-covid-19.
The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) has published a major report that examines the return on investment in access to justice in several regions, including North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Australia and Asia. The report concludes that, “across a diversity of justice programs, services and mechanisms around the world, spending on justice results in significant economic and other benefits that generally significantly exceed the value of the investment.” In most cases, the rate of return on investment in justice services and programs is between CAD $9 and $16 for every CAD $1 that is spent.
This new report is one of ten international background reports commissioned by the Task Force on Justice to help inform their efforts towards equal access to justice for all by 2030 (UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.3).
Investing in Justice – A Literature Review in Support of the Case for Improved Access is available for download on the CFCJ website here: https://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/Investing-in-Justice-A-Literature-Review-in-Support-of-the-Case-for-Improved-Access-by-Lisa-Moore-and-Trevor-C-W-Farrow.pdf.
A new inventory containing information on 88 legal digital tools aims to offer the Canadian public a way to conveniently access information on digital tools to address their legal needs. The inventory, which is currently in draft form, includes information from various areas of law including family, criminal, employment, and immigration. For each tool included in the inventory, information is provided on the cost (including if the tool is free to use), the intended user of the tool, the function, the type of law that it relates to and the developer of the tool. A brief description is also provided for each tool.
The Inventory of Digital Tools was created by Professor Amy Salyzyn (University of Ottawa) and JD students, William Burke and Angela Lee. The development of this inventory builds on previous research by Professors Jena McGill, Suzanne Bouclin, and Amy Salyzyn on the potential use of mobile and web-based applications to improve access to justice. For more information on the Inventory of Digital Tools or to provide feedback, visit the following webpage: https://techlaw.uottawa.ca/direct-public-legal-digital-tools-canada.
The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) has announced the launch of the first phase of a project aimed at “Measuring the Impacts of Legal Service Interventions”. This new project, which is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO), will focus on the development of a longitudinal impact study that assesses the effectiveness of different types of legal service interventions on the outcome of particular types of legal disputes. The study will also seek to measure the impacts on the long-term health of clients, while providing necessary insights into the costs and benefits of such interventions.
Having a better and more accurate understanding of how different types of legal interventions impact the outcome of a dispute can help to provide the public with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about how to deal with their legal problem(s) and potentially improves their legal capabilities. It can help governments, policy makers and funders to understand which justice pathways and tools show the most promise in particular scenarios, and this type of information can also assist legal service providers with decisions around how to allocate budgets and scale different services.
The press release for this newly launched Law Foundation of Ontario funded project can be accessed here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/Measuring-the-Impact-of-Legal-Service-Interventions-CFCJ-LFO-Press-Release.pdf.
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/.
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.
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.
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.