The Online Resource for Massachusetts Poverty Law Advocates

Interim Report on Access to Justice Initiatives in the Trial Court

Date: 
01/08/2010
Author: 
Honorable Dina E. Fein and Sandra E. Lundy, Esq.

Overview

The Access to Justice survey was conducted using print and electronic methods. The response rate was 29 percent and 34 percent for trial court employees and courthouse employees, respectively. 7 fundamental components for providing meaningful access to justice were surveyed: services for court users with limited or no English skills; advocates; self-represented litigant services; alternative dispute resolution; technology; collaborations with other organizations; and general services for court users.

A majority of respondents indicate that advocates, services for Limited English Proficiency (“LEP”) individuals and general judicial access services is available in their jurisdiction’s trial court. In contrast, survey responses indicate an inadequate provision of services for pro se litigants and cross-agency/organization collaboration. Additionally, a majority of respondents emphasized the need to provide more access to justice technologies and expand current services for LEP individuals.

The report observed that there was a marked degree of consensus across regions, job titles and departments with respect to measures for expanding trial court access. Approximately one-third of survey respondents listed the following as services they would like to see available at the courthouse in their jurisdiction: translated instruction materials; online court forms; translated court forms; and courthouse staff with foreign language capabilities. 

Purpose

The purpose of the report is to present findings on the progress made in improving trial court access to impaired litigants – those with limited English proficiency, limited means and mental/physical disabilities – residing within Massachusetts. 

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