By Jill Roberts, Access to Justice Division, AOIC
The National Center for Access to Justice began gathering data in 2014 for its Justice Index. It ranks the 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico on access to justice topics including access to lawyers, self-representation (SRLs), language access, disability access, and fees and fines. The Composite Index of scores from the first four categories provide a nationwide comparison of states and Illinois placed ninth this year! This is one place higher than the first index report in 2016.
Illinois’ highest score is in the self-representation category with a score of 88.37 out of 100 placing 3rd in the nation behind only California and Massachusetts. Illinois met many of the benchmarks for self-representation, but still have room for improvement. Some of the highest weighted factors for this category include:
- using plain language on court forms and providing written guidance to judges encouraging the use of plain language
- having and informing litigants about a financial hardship waivers for court costs
- having an Access to Justice Commission with a strategic plan
- providing written guidance to and having training for to judges, clerks and court staff to ensure impartiality and fairness to SRLs
- making the Court website fully accessible on mobile devices
- allowing all litigants to bring cellphones
- offering the option to receive text message reminders for court dates
Please visit the Justice Index website to see all of the factors considered for SRLs as well as the factors for the remaining categories. The Access to Justice Commission will use this tool to continue its efforts to have services for SRLs and access to qualified interpreters while venturing into the disability access space.