NCAJ works to expand access to justice, the meaningful opportunity to be heard. Access to justice is unavailable to millions of people even though its presence is often the essential difference between losing the right to raise a child or keeping the family together, between living homeless on the street or preserving the roof over one’s head, between going to bed hungry or having enough to eat, and between suffering physical and emotional injury or finding refuge from harm. Access to justice is especially elusive for people facing language barriers, contending with disabilities, or living in marginalized and poor communities. It means specifically that people learn about their rights and assert them effectively in a neutral and nondiscriminatory process that determines facts, applies law, and enforces outcomes. We all have a stake in access to justice not only because we (and those we love) are likely to face legal problems in our lives, but also because the basic stability of our society—of our rule of law and of our democratic institutions— requires equal justice for all.
The Justice Index is a unique online resource that relies on findings, indicators, indexing, and other data-analytics tools to assess people’s ability to protect their rights regardless of whether they can afford a lawyer, speak and understand English, or navigate the legal system without an accommodation due to a physical or mental disability. The Justice Index scores and ranks the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico on their adoption of selected best practices for ensuring access to justice, thus creating incentives for state officials to replicate those practices. The Justice Index also shows where the best practices are present and where they are absent, making it easy for everyone to see and identify the practices, and easy for state officials to take steps to adopt them. The National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) launched the Justice Index in 2014 using data collected in 2012 and 2013. At the time of its launch, the original Justice Index was the first publicly available resource of its kind. The Justice Index 2016 is now updated and expanded, and contains new data collected in 2015.
Our core objective is to improve the lives of individuals by strengthening our social, governmental, and economic systems. Our strategy is to systematically examine areas of society in which under-performance, inefficiency, concentrated power, lack of information, lack of accountability, lack of transparency, lack of balance among interests, and other barriers to human progress and achievement persist. We then apply a rigorous and comprehensive entrepreneurial problem-solving approach to these areas, considering all possible strategies, tactics, and resource allocations to affect solutions. Our approach is not limited to what has been tried, or even what has been proposed, in the past. Instead, we seek to incentivize bold, creative thinking and effort, with the goal of igniting a renaissance of new ideas and approaches applied to persistent problems.