Building the Capacity for Justice System Innovation

Report
Building the Capacity for
Justice System Innovation
Bonnie Rose Hough
Center for Families, Children & the Courts
of the Administrative Office of the Courts
California
California – in round numbers
• 38 million residents
• 5.6 million – population in poverty
• More than 40% of residents speak a language
other than English at home
• 2,000 judges
• 58 counties
– Los Angeles -10 million residents
– Alpine - 1,500 residents
• State court budget cut by 1/3 in last 4 years
Why do California courts care?
• 70% of divorce cases involve at least one
person without an attorney at beginning of a
case – 80% by the end of a case
• 90% of domestic violence cases involve no
attorneys
• 90% of tenants in eviction cases don’t have
attorneys – 30% of landlords don’t
• Many people start by going to court rather than
to a lawyer
Since 1997
• State funds increase – from 0 - $40 million
• Vast majority of those SRLs are getting some
level of assistance – often appropriate level
• Cultural changes –
–
–
–
–
Partnerships between court and legal aid
Judges – much more comfortable in role
Bar generally supportive – increasingly unbundling
Court staff – providing information, focus on helping
people through system
People with legal needs
•
•
•
•
•
•
Over 1 million people served per year
4 million users of the self-help website
Happier with court system
Getting their cases resolved
Generally take less time than attorneys
Getting referrals to appropriate help including
counsel
Lessons learned #1
• There is a unity of interest between courts and
public in providing assistance to help people
handle their court case
Guardianship Assistance
Year
Service Provided
Guardianship
Hearing
Continuances
2002
1-on-1 assistance
39
2003
1-on-1 assistance
7
2004
None
402
2005
None
366
2006
Workshops
98
2007
Workshops
118
2008
Workshops
180
Lessons Learned #2
• It is easier to change systems and provide
extensive education for
• 2,000 judges
• 160,000 court staff
than 38,000,000 potential represented litigants
New skills and changing
expectations
• Smartest person is one who helps people
address their legal need – not the one who can
find the most errors
• Smartest person is one who can figure out how
to explain complicated concepts in plain
language – not one who knows all legal terms
• Not a Perry Mason judge – often more of a
facilitated discussion
Procedural Fairness
• Research findings show that people tend to
care more about how they were treated by the
system than by the outcome itself
- Voice (feel like they got to tell their story)
- Respect (litigants feel respected)
- Understanding (litigants understood process,
what to do)
- Helpfulness (litigants believe court trying to be
helpful)
Education
Benchguide
Role Play
On-line, just in time education
Resources for referrals
Use research to support education
Lesson Learned 3 - Welcome trips
to the doctor
•
•
•
•
Technical language
Not at one’s best
Often big complicated buildings
Potentially high stakes - but often not
(when was the last time you had a lobotomy?)
Things to consider
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•
•
•
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How are you directed?
How long do you wait?
How are you treated?
How are they doing triage?
How well do the providers seem to
work together?
• What guidance do you get for
aftercare?
• How do they work with the lay helper?
Ideas
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•
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Prescription pads between services
Tourguide – self-assessment tool for courts
Checklists
Signage
Handouts on next steps – referral to websites
Education on active listening – permission to
be kind
Lesson learned #4 – continue to
evolve
Identify what issues you are trying to resolve –
preferably from user perspective
Try new solutions
Evaluate and continue to refine
Share findings – learn from others
Develop system for passing knowledge to new
staff
Workshops
Case management
• Build automated check-in points into case
management system
• Send email / text message / mail to litigants
who haven’t completed steps alerting them
about that and referring to self-help
• Judge looks at every court hearing as
settlement opportunity
Self-Represented Litigant Days
• Schedule cases involving self-represented
litigants for one calendar
• Get as many resources as possible into that
courtroom – self-help, mediation, legal aid,
relevant social services, etc. and work to get
cases resolved
• Great pro bono work for attorneys – short,
focused, tangible
Simplify
Lesson 5 – Provide staff support
• Carve some money from direct service to
provide coordination, education, support for
volunteer leadership
• Use that person to get others engaged
• Be strategic about who is best to do what work
– Volunteer leadership v. staff
Role of court self help attorney
• Not only providing direct legal
assistance and information
• But voice with the judges and
administration about what changes
need to be made to appropriately
respond to the needs of low income
people coming before the court
Lesson 6 – A little seed money
goes a long way
• Allows interested people to get together
• Leverages other resources
• Identifies project that needs to be done
Lesson 7 – Use technology for
what it’s good for
– Computers:
• Remembering facts (e.g., asks a question only once)
• Applying rules consistently
• Creating beautiful paperwork
– People:
• Triage
• Teaching and communicating emotional support
KEY IDEAS
• Boundaries are rapidly changing
• Doesn’t have to work for everyone unless you don’t
offer other services
Advocates or
selfrepresented
litigants
answer
questions
during an
interview.
A personalized
document is created
from the answers.
The
answers can
be saved
and reused.
Support for using on-line tools

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