Throughout the past 18 months, the pandemic has been a shared experience across our state, our country, and our world, yet everyone has experienced it uniquely. The same is true of our courts, which have taken different paths to the same goal: continuing access to justice and continuity of services—be it virtually or in person. The challenges they faced brought innovation at a scale and pace that we've never seen before, amounting to a year-long national pilot project for both state and federal courts. 

Moving forward, the pandemic will have lasting implications for our justice system. The immediate focus on keeping the doors of justice open will inevitably shift to growing case backlogs, reduced funding, increased demand for low-cost legal assistance, inequities in access, and deepening concerns regarding public trust and confidence. Our justice system must be ready, but how do we create paths forward to achieve justice for all?

To answer this question, IAALS launched a virtual summit series, Paths to Justice. The series was comprised of multiple invite-only virtual convenings as well as a series of webinars focusing on the paths of the pandemic, the paths to access, and the paths to racial justice that our system must walk in our new normal. We connected with other stakeholders tackling these issues, fostered conversations among stakeholders and across systems, and moved the conversation—and innovation—forward.

The past year has emphasized that our system falls short of the promise of equal justice, and there is much work to be done to realize justice for all. It is clear that now, more than ever, we need transformative change on a broad scale. We're thankful to all who joined us on the paths forward.

Paths of the Pandemic

Learning from this Nationwide Pilot Project—Reducing the Costs and Delays of Civil Litigation

This program focused on standard and complex litigation, both in our state and federal courts. What have we learned in this pandemic—and through this nationwide pilot project—regarding how to make litigation less expensive and more accessible?

This panel featured Hon. Wallace B. Jefferson (Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Texas (Ret.), Partner, Alexander Dubose & Jefferson), Ariana J. Tadler (Founding Partner, Tadler Law LLP), and Hon. Samuel A. Thumma (Judge, Arizona Court of Appeals), whose conversation was moderated by Hon. Lee H. Rosenthal (Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, Houston Division).

Learning from this Nationwide Pilot Project—Ensuring Access to Justice in High-Volume Cases

This program focused on high-volume cases, which pose unique challenges and also great opportunity for improvement in terms of access to justice. What have we learned in this pandemic—and through this nationwide pilot project—on how to ensure access to justice in these high-volume cases?

This panel featured Hon. Clemens Landau (Presiding Judge, Salt Lake City Justice Court), Sheriece Perry (Acting Co-Director, Massachusetts Trial Court Office of Court Management), and Gina Calabrese (Professor of Clinical Legal Education, St. John’s University School of Law), whose conversation was moderated by Hon. Jennifer Bailey (Administrative Judge, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida, Circuit Civil Division).

Paths to Access

The Justice Crisis in the United States

In September 2021, IAALS and HiiL launched the results of their nationwide study on access to justice in the United States. The results of the survey provide a clear picture regarding the landscape of legal problems, and also provides additional insights into the justice crisis and the need for a profound change in the access to justice paradigm—from how the United States thinks about the scope of the crisis to how it is addressed. This program provided a deeper dive into the key findings of this study.

This panel featured Logan Cornett (Director of Research, IAALS), Dr. Martin Gramatikov (Director Measuring Justice, HiiL), and Brittany Kauffman (Senior Director, IAALS).

The Justice Crisis in the United States—From Data to System Reform

This program featured leaders in the area of access to justice to discuss important follow-up questions to the US Justice Needs study from IAALS and HiiL: How do we utilize this data—at this unique moment in time—to drive action and system improvement? What are key areas for focus in support of access to justice over the next few years? Where are the greatest opportunities for improvement? How do we broaden interest, engagement, and support to improve access to justice for everyone in the United States, especially those who need it most?

This panel featured Rebecca Sandefur (Professor, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, Arizona State University), Jim Sandman (President Emeritus, Legal Services Corporation) and David Udell (Founder and Executive Director, National Center for Access to Justice), whose conversation was moderated by Brittany Kauffman (Senior Director, IAALS).

Paths to Racial Justice

Identifying Barriers to Equity in the Justice System

This program focused in on barriers to equity in our justice system. We have to recognize—and reckon with—the fact that justice is not equally distributed. There are many ways in which our system is set up that create injustices and inequities based on race and ethnicity, socio-economics, gender, and disability. Justice system reformers, including IAALS, must be mindful of such barriers so that innovations and system improvements are implemented in a truly equitable way.

This esteemed panel featured Courtney Bryan (Executive Director, Center for Court Innovation), Valerie Colas (Access to Justice Counsel for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Office of the State Court Administrator), and Camille Nelson (Dean and Professor of Law, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa | William S. Richardson School of Law), whose conversation was moderated by Hon. Jeremy Fogel (Executive Director, Berkeley Judicial Institute).

The Intersection of Racial Justice and Public Trust and Confidence

Building on our December 15 webinar, which examined barriers to equity in our justice system, this program featured national legal experts and explored the intersection of racial justice and public trust and confidence. What are current levels of public trust and confidence in the civil justice system, and how do systemic racism and societal inequities affect those levels? Should we be looking at focused change to the current system, or do we need to think bigger and envision new approaches to delivering justice?

This esteemed panel featured Alicia Bannon (Managing Director, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice), Eduardo Gonzalez (Projects Manager, SRLN), and Hon. Jeanne Robison (Salt Lake City Justice Court), whose conversation was moderated by Hon. Victor Reyes (Judge-in-Residence, NCJFCJ).