The Commission's Working Groups

The Commission will establish working groups to help it carry out its mission. Each working group will have two co-chairs. The co-chairs will be authorized to add individuals to serve on the working groups either from the Commission or from the community at large. All of the working groups will be responsible for at least the following activities:


             i) Identifying any access to justice issues within the charter of the particular working group;

ii) Developing a strategic plan to address said issues within a reasonable time frame;

iii) Coordinating its activities with the work of the Special Advisor to the Trial Courts;

iv) Identifying activities which can benefit from joint work with one of the other working groups;

v) Becoming aware of initiatives taken by access to justice commissions established in other states; and,

vi) Reporting to the full Commission on matters that warrant broader input than that of the working group itself.

At the May 26, 2010 meeting of the Commission, each Working Group presented its statement of objectives and work plan for the next two or three years.  To review these plans, click on the name of the Working Group.  

Delivery of Legal Services Working Group

            Co-Chairs: Jacquelynne Bowman and Russell Engler

Recognizing the rich tradition in the Commonwealth of providing legal services and other assistance to those who cannot afford to retain an attorney, including  the efforts of the established legal services programs, the private bar, law schools, the courts, administrative agencies and social service agencies, this working group will have responsibility for assessing whether there are ways the delivery system can provide improved access to justice. 

It will     i) Coordinate the efforts of the broad network of organizations and interested persons who seek to

             improve access to justice;

ii) Share information and identify best practices regarding successful programs, approaches, and strategies in delivering civl legal services to those unable to afford counsel;

iii) Identify unaddressed or under-addressed legal needs and weaknesses in the current structure or operation of the delivery system and to develop strategies and opportunities for addressing those needs and reducing those weaknesses;

iv) Be responsible for considering whether the current resources available to address the unmet legal needs of the poor can be augmented by, for example, new and as yet unidentified programs in the private bar, the use of non-traditional resources such as social service agencies, law school clinical programs, etc., or by increased appropriations or contributions; and

v) In conjunction with the Commission as a whole, serve as a neutral forum in which issues regarding the organization and effectiveness of the legal services delivery system in the Commonwealth can be discussed with legal service projects leadership and staff, clients, funders, bar leaders and other interested persons.


Technology  

and Website Working Group

            Co-Chairs: Kay Paine and Richard McMahon

The fundamental goal will be to explore how technology can best be used to enhance the delivery of justice. The Working Group will work closely with the other working groups in its activities, and will also be cognizant of the activities of the Special Advisor to the Trial Court on Access to Justice Initiatives and initiatives taken by other states.  It will look broadly at how technological advancements can be used in various ways to enhance access to justice, of which the following are illustrative:

i) development of effective websites to increase the flow of information to the public at large about their legal rights, the resources available to them to address any loss of said rights and the court and administrative processes which might be useful to them.

ii) development of a network of community resources beyond the courts which might be useful in enhancing the distribution of relevant access to justice information to the public such as public libraries, social services agencies, universities, etc.; and

iii) consideration of the ways in which technology can be used to improve the development of and completion of user-friendly forms in the courts and, if relevant, the administrative agencies.

Administrative Justice Working Group

            Co-Chairs: Navjeet Bal and Allan Rodgers

The role of this working group stems from one basic observation: that individuals who are of limited economic means are greatly affected in their daily lives  by the workings of a vast number of practices and decisions by federal, state and local administrative agencies. Working collaboratively with relevant administrative agencies, it will engage in any project which has as its purpose improving access to or the administration of justice by a particular administrative agency or group of agencies, and will develop strategies on a range of activities in this arena of which the following are illustrative:

i) improving access to information for members of the affected public about the agencies_ application process, available benefits and denials of benefits;

ii) improving the ways in which individuals with limited English proficiency are aided by the agencies; and

iii) improving the ways in which the agencies conduct informal decision making and formal adjudicatory hearings. 

The Court Practice Working Groups:

4. District Court/Boston Municipal Court Practice Working Group

Co-Chairs: Judge Pamela Dashiell, Judge Kathryn Hand and Jay Thiel

5. Probate and Family Court Practice Working Group

Co-Chairs: Judge Angela OrdoƱez and Tony Doniger

6. Housing Court Practice Working Group

Co-Chairs: Joel Feldman and Chief Justice Steven Pierce

Recognizing the numerous ways in which the courts have increased access over the past several decades, these working groups will have responsibility for assessing whether there are ways in which individuals continue to have difficulties in obtaining access to the particular courts within the purview of the working group, including the special issues pertaining to those with limited proficiency in English. They will identify opportunities and strategies for eliminating said difficulties. These three working groups will collaborate with one another when relevant, work with the Special Advisor to the Trial Court on Access to Justice Initiatives, and consider the ways in which the Commission's other working groups, or the Commission as a whole, can be helpful in addressing access issues.

 
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