National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law
In the United States and around the world, people’s lives are compromised when they do not understand their rights, cannot assert their rights, cannot rely on a neutral and unbiased decision-maker, cannot count on the fair rule of law, and cannot enforce the law. Access to justice can often be the difference, enabling people to: keep a family together, save their homes, secure their physical safety, obtain sufficient food, and maintain their freedom.
The National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School is the national academically-affiliated nonprofit organization working to accomplish change that that helps people obtain access to justice. Our flagship project is the Justice Index.
In addition to the Justice Index, National Center for Access to Justice is also working to develop best practices for civil legal aid programs in New York City to use data to track outcomes achieved by clients and communities through the work of the programs.
Priorities as a partner of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data
The National Center for Access to Justice is committed to using data in the service of justice system reform. We describe two projects, below. The Justice Index, the flagship project of the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School, is an online resource that uses data, indicators, and indexing to rank the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., on their adoption of selected best policies and practices for assuring civil access to justice. Its goal is to expand access to justice. It has been recognized by the American Bar Association with the Pro Bono Publico Award and with this video.
The Justice Index is aligned with the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and particularly with UN Goal 16, which calls on all nations to draw on the data revolution to expand access to justice and the rule of law. The driving idea of the Justice Index is to establish a high profile, highly credible, data-first, comparison of efforts to expand access to justice in the states.
The Justice Index prompts a dialogue that creates incentives for states to adopt better policies, makes the selected policy models highly visible for ease of replication, engages the public and the press in considering the importance of the civil justice system, and also supports the work of social scientists and other researchers.
The Justice Index contains 112 indicators, and 5,000 data points organized in an overarching ranking system that includes four sub-index categories, as follows:
- Attorney Access Index – the ratio of civil legal aid attorneys per 10,000 poor;
- Self-Represented Index – the policies to assist self-represented litigants;
- Language Access Index – the policies to assist people with limited English proficiency; and
- Disability Access Index – the policies to assist people with disabilities.
Justice Index findings are updated every two years (next update in 2018), Justice Index data sets are entirely transparent to visitors and Justice Index rankings have been helping to drive policy reform in the states since 2014. Justice Index indicators and findings are being used by the government at multiple levels and are covered in the news.
(See e.g., Citiscope, How Baltimore is using the Sustainable Development Goals to make a more just city. See generally.)
In addition to the Justice Index, the National Center for Access to Justice is also working to develop best practices for civil legal aid programs in New York City to use data to track outcomes achieved by clients and communities through the work of the programs. The project is focused on strategies that help to streamline the collection of outcomes data while also increasing the value of the outcomes data collected. It involves a consideration of approaches for tracking, reporting, and analyzing data, as well as for using the data to demonstrate value, allocate resources identify unmet needs, and document impacts. As with the Justice Index, and all of the National Center for Access to Justice's work, it is intended to draw on the data revolution to expand access to justice.