University of Denver

Family Justice Reform Recommendations Round Out National State Court Reform Efforts

Director of Special Projects
Senior Director

As state courts around the country have been responding to the Conference of Chief Justices' (CCJ) 2016 Call to Action for civil justice reform, IAALS, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) also have been focused on developing companion recommendations for evaluating and improving the way courts handle domestic relations cases. The Family Justice Initiative has recently released its own final report and recommendations, extending and modifying the CJI Recommendations to address domestic relations cases:

  • Principle 1 – Direct an Approach that Focuses on Problem Solving
  • Principle 2 – Involve and Empower Parties
  • Principle 3 – Courts are Safety and Trauma-Responsive
  • Principle 4 – Provide Information and Assistance
  • Principle 5 – Use a Service-based Pathway Approach
  • Principle 6 – Streamlined Pathway
  • Principle 7 – Tailored Services Pathway
  • Principle 8 – Judicial/Specialized Pathway
  • Principle 9 – Implement High Quality Judicial and Court Staff Training / Education
  • Principle 10 – Identify and Strengthen Community Partnerships
  • Principle 11 – Improve Ongoing Data Collection, Analysis, and Use of Data to Inform Case Management
  • Principle 12 – Collect and Analyze User-Evaluation Metrics
  • Principle 13 – Implement Innovative and Appropriate Technology

CCJ has approved these Principles through Resolution 3 (2019), and the next step for the Family Justice Initiative is to implement and evaluate these Principles in four pilot jurisdictions.

The broader work of CCJ and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) began in 2013 when they created the Civil Justice Improvements Committee in order to develop a set of specific recommendations, based on pilot project experiences and innovations of the states, for addressing the cost and delay in our state civil justice systems. That Committee, in partnership with IAALS and NCSC, issued a comprehensive set of recommendations for civil justice reform in 2016 in an effort to help state courts better meet the needs of the 21st Century, informed by NCSC’s Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts. The CCJ adopted the CJI Committee’s report and recommendations, and IAALS embarked alongside NCSC on a three-year Civil Justice Initiative implementation project.

The Family Justice Initiative adopted a similar approach. The project’s work began with the Landscape of Domestic Relations Cases in State Courts study last year, which informed the work of the CCJ and COSCA Joint Committee on Children and Families.

IAALS has been a proud and long-time partner in these national civil and family justice efforts alongside CCJ, COSCA, and NCSC. One of us, Brittany, served as IAALS’ lead on the Civil Justice Initiative while the other of us, Natalie, served as IAALS’ lead on the Family Justice Initiative. These sister efforts have gained momentum since the Conference of Chief Justices first began sounding the national call to action for broad civil justice reform several years ago.

Of course, IAALS has been active in reforming civil and family court processes since its inception in 2006. But the national visibility and allocation of essential resources toward this effort on a larger scale has helped IAALS boost our own reform efforts and have even greater impact, at the state and federal levels. The critical, lasting partnerships in our work toward rebuilding the justice system have been instrumental in this impact, and we recognize and celebrate these partnerships as the release of the FJI Principles signal another key step forward in this momentum for reform.