Justice for All Initiative Expands Opportunities for More States to Participate

August 26, 2019

In 2015, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators passed Resolution 5, which supports the goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs. The Resolution urges the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and other national organizations to develop tools and provide assistance to states to achieve the goal of 100 percent access through a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services. To achieve this goal, NCSC launched a study in 2016 called the Justice for All Initiative; it is designed to assess and inventory each participating state’s resources and gaps in access to justice as well as to develop a strategic action plan using guidance materials and technical assistance specific to each state’s needs. The project has continued to expand, and they recently issued a Request for Proposal to include additional states.

In August 2016, the Justice for All Expert Working Group released the Justice for All Strategic Planning Guidance Materials, giving states direction to properly envision, develop, and implement their strategic action plans. And in November 2016, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York were seven out of 25 state applicants awarded a grant under the Justice for All Initiative. The grants support each state awardee in forming partnerships with all relevant stakeholders in the civil justice community and developing state assessments and strategic action plans to support the goal of 100 percent access. The project also requests a commitment by the states to reimagine how to work across organizations and optimize resources to advance access to justice for all.

In 2018, Kentucky, New Mexico, Montana, and Florida were included as additional states in the project.

The Justice for All awardee states recently completed their strategic planning processes and now look forward to the implementation phase of the Initiative. NCSC completed Lessons from the Field, which highlights themes common in all states’ plans and frameworks. Each pilot state has a unique set of resources and challenges, and as a consequence, each state’s plan focused on difference approaches. Even though each state developed very different approaches in their plans to reach 100 percent access, the common themes include:

  • The importance of bringing a diverse group of participants together to increase the depth of user needs;
  • Conducting inventory to assess current processes gaps;
  • No single approach alone will fill the justice gaps;
  • Technology is essential to reach all areas of each state;
  • Strong governance is key; and
  • Communications are vital both internally within the courts and externally with the courts' users.

In 2019, the Justice For All Project has been expanded once again, with recommendations from the 2018 CCJ/COSCA Resolution 3 (Expanding Meaningful Access to Justice for All). The project now receives support from the JPB Foundation, with continuing support from the Public Welfare Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. States selected through the Request for Proposal will receive a planning grant for the first phase, with the opportunity for an implementation grant after planning has been finalized. The Advisory Committee is expected to make decisions on additional states in August 2019.