This is the third article analyzing the Oregon Supreme Court’s four year strategic plan. The previous two articles can be found two 'clicks' down.
The Oregon Supreme Court's Four Year Strategic Plan can be found by clicking here. Goal #1 of the Court’s five part “Plan” is to: “Protect Public Access to Justice.”
The Oregon Supreme Court Concept -- The overall concept of “The Plan”, their four year strategic plan, is to isolate what has to be done now and what can wait until later. The Oregon Supreme Court decided last year that what must be done now in the field of Access is:
"Improve the scope and quality of services for self-represented
litigants through both staff training to improve customer service
and the development of user-friendly, multilingual court forms and guides"(sic)
The Plan also wants to expand court interpreting services.
What can wait until later, according to the Court, is “…access to and use of no-cost and low-cost legal services.” (Note: The Oregon State Bar took on this Task over a decade ago and has a myriad of practical, low cost programs for those who cannot afford a downtown lawyer)
So, the questions are; who is going to do this, how is it going to be measured and how do we know when we “get there”?
The Bulletin’s Analysis -- The Oregon Supreme Court should be applauded for its interest in opening up the court process to our diverse community. What is missing, (and you will be alerted to this concept from time-to-time) is breakthrough change. A day in any court facility will reveal thoughtful, helpful customer service. A day in any court facility will reveal surly, rude customer service.
The Bulletins Better Idea -- Simplify! All court processes should be simplified so the Everyman or Everywoman can use our court systems without the need of extraordinary understanding.
A Model Legal System #1 -- The law and court procedures should be simply stated on all subjects, predictable and easily available to anyone including ordinary citizens; not just convenient to lawyers.
Think of it from an ordinary citizen’s vantage point. What is intimidating to the ordinary citizen when they walk in a court house, with or without a lawyer, is that THEY DON’T KNOW THE RULES.
I learned a valuable lesson when I was about five years old, from Keith Taylor, my neighbor. Our favorite summer pastime was to play monopoly. He always won. We protested. He challenged us. He would take our rolls of the dice and still beat us because HE KNEW THE RULES better than we did. Whoever knows the rules wins. If Court rules are too complicated for a 12 year old, then we should fix them.
What the Oregon Supreme Court Strategic Plan has wrong, overall, is this: The legal experience for regular citizens is broken long before anybody gets to the courthouse. The Court likens the courthouse to the emergency room at a hospital. A moments reflection pictures the chaos of the emergency room is a lot like the chaos for ordinary citizens at the courthouse. We need to simplify the rules of the road so the smash-up victims of our legal system don’t have to rely on the court emergency room to get legal solace.
NEXT -- Goal #2 for the Oregon Supreme Court is: “Earn the public’s enduring trust and confidence”. They raise the question: Is everyone equal before the law? It should come as no surprise that Bulletins has a thoughtful rejoinder.
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