David Udell, Executive Director
Sara Ilyas, Outreach Coordinator
New York, NY, July 31, 2017
The Justice Index is the data-intensive website created by the National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) that vividly illustrates the access to justice crisis in America, and promotes reform by identifying best policies for access to justice and ranking states on their adoption of those policies.
The Justice Index was built with the support of the Justice Index Team, comprised of volunteers from 13 institutions:
- six law firms - Kirkland, Morgan, O'Melveny, Patterson, Skadden & Simpson;
- four corporations - Deloitte, GE, Pfizer & UBS; and
- three law schools - Cardozo, Fordham & University of Pennsylvania.
The Crisis in Access to Justice
We have a national crisis in access to justice ("A2J") that annually leaves millions of Americans with no place to turn for legal help in resolving many of life's most difficult problems including: divorce, eviction, custody, foreclosure, debt collection, child support, and domestic violence. If you are unable to afford a lawyer, cannot secure one through a civil legal aid program (a fact for millions who need help), limited in your English language skills, or contending with a disability that makes it hard to navigate the justice system, you are unlikely to be able to tell your story in a compelling way to a decision maker with the power to help. That is wrong. The A2J movement is working hard to change it. Many states have done important work in improving A2J. Many have done too little. No one state has done all that must be done.
The Justice Index Vision
The Justice Index is an interactive website that uses data, findings, indicators and indexing to rank the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., on their adoption of selected best policies for assuring access to justice. By making the adoption of best policies highly visible, the Justice Index promotes change in state court systems across the land.
The Justice Index began in 2011 with the simple insight that it's hard to fix a problem when you can't see clearly what is going wrong. We have never had effective ways to understand which states' justice systems struggle the most to assure access to justice and which, despite challenges, are making it easier for vulnerable people in our society to protect their rights.
The Justice Index ranks states based on five categories of findings:
- Attorney Access Index - ratio of civil legal aid attorneys per 10,000 poor.
- Self-Represented Index - policies to assist self-represented litigants.
- Language Access Index - policies to assist people with limited English proficiency.
- Disability Access Index - policies to assist people with disabilities.
- Composite Index - an overall ranking combining scores from the other four indexes..
At a time when injustice and inequality appear pervasive in our society, when partisanship divides the country, and when "alternative facts" challenge the very idea of consensus, the Justice Index renews our foundational commitment to data as a resource essential to enabling our country to deliver on its promise of justice for all.
The Justice Index Team
Thanks to the work of scores of volunteer lawyers, data professionals, legal aid lawyers, law students and others, the Justice Index is helping everyone to see the access to justice crisis in America - and the path to its resolution - more clearly. The Justice Index Team receiving the Pro Bono Publico Award is comprised of volunteers
from six law firms, Kirkland, Morgan, O'Melveny, Patterson, Skadden & Simpson; four corporations, Deloitte, GE, Pfizer & UBS; and three law schools, Cardozo, Fordham & University of Pennsylvania. The full story of the Justice Index Team is
The Justice Index Findings
David Udell, Executive Director of the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School, stated:
The Justice Index is one of the drivers of a national conversation on how to deliver on the core promise we make to each other as Americans: that everyone must be equal before the law. By relying on data and technology, the Justice Index shows where the best laws, rules and polices are in place. By ranking leading and trailing states, the Justice Index builds in incentives for every state to do better.
The Justice Index has 5000 data points, which include the only comprehensive count of the number of civil legal aid lawyers, 6,953: an average in the states of fewer than one (just .64) civil legal aid attorneys per 10,000 poor people (as compared with 40 lawyers per 10,000 Americans in the general population). The findings cover uses of technology, reliance on interpreters and translators, civil right to counsel laws, policies for guiding people with disabilities, and more.
Justice Index Endorsements & Impacts
Nationally prominent experts
the Justice Index Team for the Pro Bono Publico Award. Additionally, Chief Justices of Connecticut, Hawaii and Massachusetts have
spoken about the value
of the Justice Index. Additionally, specific Justice Index impacts include:
- two states dedicating employees to innovation for self-represented litigants;
- one state writing us to explain how it made its website user-friendly for self-represented litigants;
- several court officials reaching out for advice to officials in other states with Justice Index best policies in place;
- several court officials using the Justice Index to train new staff and to refresh senior staff on Justice Index best practices;
- three A2J commissions inviting NCAJ to talk through Justice Index findings and support local efforts using the Justice Index to set reform goals and improve policy;
- a state amending its statewide court rule to prohibit judges from charging litigants for interpreting services;
- a state relying on Justice Index findings to establish its court's strategic plan; civil rights enforcement reports and other government reports relying on the Justice Index findings to draw conclusions about best policies.
- a legal aid official relying on the JI's data on the number of civil legal aid attorneys to help persuade state officials to increase support for civil legal aid in the state; the JI is the sole source of a comprehensive national and state count of civil legal aid lawyers.
More Information, Including Tickets
For more on the Justice Index, the Justice Index Team, the National Center for Access to Justice, and tickets to the luncheon event, see:
- Tickets to the August 12, 2017 event are available on the ABA's web site (use promo code "LAIT"), here, with a description of the Award and the Justice Index Team's effort, here.
- Statements of national experts (Lisa Foster, Jonathan Lippman, Rebecca Sandefur, Jim Sandman& Jo-Ann Wallace) endorsing the Justice Index Team for the Pro Bono Publico Award, here.
- Justice Index key findings, including rankings of states, and statements of Connecticut, Massachusetts & Hawaii Supreme Court chief justices on the Justice Index (Press Release, May 2016), here.
- The Justice Index, here; an overview of the Justice Index Indicators, here; a description of the Justice Index Team, here.
- Links to media clips and other official documents relying on the Justice Index, here.
- National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School, here.