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Recommendations from the
State Bar of California 

This article was written in response to the American Bar Associations’ “Comprehensive Legal Needs Study”.  This consortium intended to identify factors and recommend changes to law school curriculum and continuing legal education designed to prepare solo and small-firm practitioners to make a living while meeting the needs of the moderate-income client population.  The relevant recommendations of this consortium have been excerpted and summarized below.  The recommendations numbers correspond to the appropriate recommendation number from the official source. 

1.      Pro Per Assistance

Improve programs that assist litigants in representing themselves in court proceedings until adequate legal representation can be provided to all who need it.  The Commission on Access to Justice should attempt to ensure that Californians are not appearing pro per involuntarily and inappropriately that is, in cases where legal assistance is important but where the litigants go without because they cannot afford a lawyer.  Meanwhile, the Commission should evaluate and attempt to improve existing self-representation programs.

 2.      User Friendly Courts

Encourage the development and evaluate the results of programs designed to make courts “user friendly” to low- and moderate-income individuals.  In its 1993 report, “Justice in the Balance:  2020,” the Commission of the Future of the California Courts, issued a series of recommendations intended to make courts more accessible for litigants disadvantaged in some way:

  • Interpreter services to be made available to all court users who require them, including those without fluency in English, the sight and hearing impaired, and the illiterate.
  • Facilities that are built or remodeled to be designed and built to ensure access for all, including the disabled.
  • Courts to institute evening or weekend sessions, where public access to justice can be enhanced.
  • The language of justice, including forms and procedures, to be comprehensible and clear in both the spoken and written word
  • Justice information to be provided through widely available technologies, including the telephone, the computer and interactive video.
  • Information kiosks to be in stalled, staffed by helpful employees at which court users, especially those unrepresented by counsel, can obtain information and guidance on the dispute resolution system.

The Commission on Access to justice should monitor and evaluate the California courts’ progress towards these and other related goals.  As funding permits, the Commission should establish its own pilot projects to determine what types of court services would best provide access to low-and moderate-income litigants.

Reproduced from: 

And Justice for All:  Fulfilling the Promise of Access to Civil Justice in California

By: The State Bar of California Office of Legal Services, Access to Justice Working Group June, 1995