New Report Examines Pathways to Justice in British Columbia

The Access to Justice Centre for Excellence at the University of Victoria (UVic ACE) has published new research that examines the pathways that people in British Columbia take to solve their civil justice problems. Understanding what people do when they experience a serious civil justice problem and the pathways that are accessible to them to resolve those problems offers important insights into people’s legal awareness and the impact of public legal education and information for the public. It also provides understandings on how people engage with the justice system. In addition, the increased use of technology in the legal sector is transforming how people interact with the legal system and requires further study to understand the impacts for existing pathways and the new pathways that will become available.

The “Navigating Access to Justice Pathways” report includes findings from an exploratory study of experiences with civil and family law problems in British Columbia that aims to:

  • Develop a more robust understanding of how people define the civil and family law justice problems they experience
  • Map common pathways used to resolve civil and family justice problems
  • Identify the barriers people face when they try to access certain pathways and the impact of those barriers on their decisions
  • Understand how people prioritize and manage multiple legal problems

Navigating Access to Justice Pathways: Problem Resolution Routes for People Experiencing Civil and Family Law Problems in British Columbia by Yvon Dandurand, Jessica Jahn, Cathy Tait, and Megan Capp is available online here: https://ajrndotco.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/5876c-navigatingaccesstojusticepathways_ace_april20_2022.pdf.

Study on the Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone Makes Important Recommendations for Scaling Up Community Justice Services

On average, it costs users of local, paralegal services in Sierra Leone US $8.44 to access the service, far below what it costs to access the formal justice system. According to a new report on the Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone, without these community-based justice services, the government would spend approximately US $23.3M to support access to justice services through the formal justice system. This compares with approximately US $18.3M to access community-based justice services. This is among several important findings from a first-of-its-kind study by the Center for Alternative Policy Research & Innovation on The Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone.

The report makes 10 recommendations for scaling up paralegal-based justice services, including:

  • Establishing a National Legal Empowerment Fund;
  • Funding exploratory research;
  • Further reducing out-of-pocket costs to access community-based justice services;
  • Meaningfully integrating community-based justice services in the broader justice sector; and
  • Building robust and efficient monitoring and evaluation systems.

The Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone by Felix Marco Conteh, Yakama Manty Jones, Sonkita Conteh, Henry Mbawa and Aisha Fofana Ibrahim (CAPRI) is available online here: https://www.caprisl.org/post/the-costs-and-benefits-of-community-based-justice-in-sierra-leone.

This project was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and is one of the final research outputs from a multi-country research initiative on Community-Based Justice Research.

Project to Assess Unbundled Legal Services Publishes Phase 1 Report

The Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project (ULSRP) is an initiative by the Access to Justice BC Unbundling Working Group, Family Justice Innovation Lab Society, and Standpoint Decisions Inc. which seeks to examine the effectiveness of family unbundled legal services. The project also aims to “facilitate access to justice by enhancing the working relationships between the existing community of [unbundled legal services] providers and BC citizens most in need of unbundled-type services.”

The project is being conducted in two phases, with the focus of Phase 1 to test and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of a proposed model for ongoing feedback from unbundled legal services clients. Data collected from this project will help service providers, innovators and policy-makers to assess the effectiveness of unbundled family legal services and better understand the user/client experience. The final report from Phase 1 of the Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project is available here: https://www.bcfamilyinnovationlab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/ULSRP-Phase-1-Report-2021-12-08-File-No-2020-LLR-3552-no-financials.pdf.

Social Security Tribunal of Canada Publishes Evaluation on Plain Language Decision-Writing

The Social Security Tribunal of Canada (SST) has published an evaluation on their progress in writing decisions in plain language. The evaluation was spurred by a 2017 external program review that found that many SST clients faced significant obstacles to “receiving administrative justice in a simple, clear and timely manner”. The recently published evaluation is the result of a 3-year effort to shift to a more people-centred model that sees decisions written with less legal jargon and that are easier to understand by people who read at a grade 9 reading level or higher.

The evaluation, published on the Government of Canada website, includes details on the methodology used for the evaluation, the impact of training on different aspects of decision-writing, the readability scorecard for decisions in both English and French, and other information. “An Evaluation of How Easy it is to Read Decisions of the Social Security Tribunal” is available online here: https://www1.canada.ca/en/sst/plainlanguagereport.html.

New CBABC Report Outlines Ways to Improve BC’s Justice System

The Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch (CBABC) has published Agenda for Justice 2021, a plain language report that outlines recommendations for more timely, effective, accessible and impartial justice for all British Columbians. The report includes more than 40 recommendations and is organized into the following sections:

(1) Access to Justice for Families
(2) Meaningful Change for Indigenous Peoples
(3) Modernizing BC’s Justice and Legal Systems
(4) Ensuring Fairness for Everyone

The CBABC’s Agenda for Justice 2021 roadmap for action report is available online here: https://www.cbabc.org/Our-Work/Agenda-for-Justice.

American Academy of Arts & Sciences Publishes Civil Justice for All Report

A new report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences urges making access to civil justice a priority and offers recommendations to close the civil justice gap. The report, which was launched on 24 September 2020, is part of an extensive, multi-year project to examine the extent and consequences of the inability of Americans to access legal help for civil justice matters.

The newly published Civil Justice for All report offers seven recommendations:

  1. Significant financial and human resources investments to close the civil justice gap
  2. More lawyers who work to address the needs of low-income earners
  3. More lawyers who offer pro bono and other volunteer assistance
  4. Open legal marketplaces to allow non-lawyers to help resolve civil justice problems
  5. More collaboration between legal service providers and professionals in other sectors to address the non-legal dimensions of problems
  6. Make legal processes, legal information, forms and other resources easier for the public to understand and access
  7. Create a central body to coordinate and promote the recommendations above and to gather much-needed civil justice data

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many of the weaknesses in American civil society. It has also brought new challenges and worsened the civil justice gap. A major initiative to ensure access to civil justice is urgently needed to help address this growing problem.

Civil Justice for All: A Report and Recommendations from the Making Justice Accessible Initiative is available online here: https://www.amacad.org/publication/civil-justice-for-all.

New Book Examines What is Working and Not Working to Improve Access to Civil and Family Justice

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law edited by Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs is a newly published book that provides an in-depth look at what is working and not working to improve access to civil and family justice in Canada.

The Justice Crisis uses new empirical research to explore the value associated with the provision of an effective justice system and the costs – individual and collective – of not providing accessible justice. The national and international importance of and the need for this kind of research is widely acknowledged.

Contributors to The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law include: Carolyn Carter, Thomas A. Cromwell, Ab Currie, Matthew Dylag, Trevor C.W. Farrow, Heather Heavin, Lesley A. Jacobs, Devon Kapoor, Michaela Keet, Jennifer Koshan, Herbert M. Kritzer, Moktar Lamari, Marylène Leduc, M. Jerry McHale, Lisa Moore, Janet Mosher, Pierre Noreau, Mitchell Perlmutter, Catherine Piché, Noel Semple, Lorne Sossin, Michael Trebilcock, Wanda Wiegers and David Wiseman.

The book’s foreword is written by The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell, CC.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law is part of the 7-year Cost of Justice project led by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice. The Cost of Justice project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law was published by UBC Press and is available here: www.ubcpress.ca/the-justice-crisis.

View the press release for The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law online here: https://news.yorku.ca/2020/09/02/new-evidence-on-the-justice-crisis-making-the-case-for-reform/.

UNODC, UNDP Report Explores Ways to Ensure Access to Justice in the Context of COVID-19

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.

Investing In Justice Saves More Money Than It Costs – New CFCJ Report

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.

New Inventory of Digital Tools To Help Canadian Public Address Their Legal Needs

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.