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Building the Capacity for Justice System Innovation Bonnie Rose Hough Center for Families, Children & the Courts of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

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Presentation on theme: "Building the Capacity for Justice System Innovation Bonnie Rose Hough Center for Families, Children & the Courts of the Administrative Office of the Courts."— Presentation transcript:

1 Building the Capacity for Justice System Innovation Bonnie Rose Hough Center for Families, Children & the Courts of the Administrative Office of the Courts California

2 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


4 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

5 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

6 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

7 Lessons learned #1 There is a unity of interest between courts and public in providing assistance to help people handle their court case

8 YearService Provided Guardianship Hearing Continuances 20021-on-1 assistance 39 20031-on-1 assistance 7 2004None 402 2005None 366 2006Workshops 98 2007Workshops 118 2008Workshops 180 Guardianship Assistance

9 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

10 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

11 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)

12 Education Benchguide Role Play On-line, just in time education Resources for referrals Use research to support education

13 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?)

14 Things to consider 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?

15 Ideas 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

16 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

17 Workshops

18 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

19 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

20 Simplify

21 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

22 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

23 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

24 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


26 Advocates or self- represented litigants answer questions during an interview. A personalized document is created from the answers. The answers can be saved and reused.

27 Support for using on-line tools



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