Project Nanny Van (Open Law Lab)

Project Nanny Van: a legal service design

“Project Nanny Van is an excellent new example of creative legal service design…this mobile van that [goes] to locations where nannies might be congregating, and provides them with resources about their legal rights — as well as other resources to empower them.

See more Open Law Lab ideas.

Why People Don’t Ask for Legal Help: It’s Not Just About Money

From the ABA Foundation: “Part of access to justice gap is that Americans don’t know when to seek legal help, says study,” Aug 8, 2014, by James Podgers:


Executive Summary …
Typically, people handled these situations on their own. For only about a fifth (22%) of situations did they seek assistance from a third party outside their immediate social network, such as a lawyer, social worker, police officer, city agency, religious leader or elected official. When people who did not seek any assistance from third parties outside their social circles were asked if cost was one barrier to doing so, they reported that concerns about cost were a factor in 17% of cases. A more important reason that people do not seek assistance with these situations, in particular assistance from lawyers or courts, is that they do not understand these situations to be legal....”  [Read the Executive Summary and full report.]

Contrast with this previous Oregon Legal Research blog post: “People don’t want to talk to lawyers, but they really want legal advice.”

And read more A2J information at the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives.


Free Legal Research and Self-Help Resources in … St. Paul, Minnesota!

“Ramsey County Law Library offers DIY help,” by Debra O’Connor, TwinCities dot com, 8/4/14:

Excerpt: “People who have never set foot in a courtroom, and might be wearing baseball hats and shorts, share the elegant, hushed Ramsey County Law Library with lawyers in suits.

They show up because they have legal problems, and here they can find help.

They can explore their options. They can learn about acting as their own lawyer in court. And, for free, they can see lawyers about problems with housing, small claims court or expunging their criminal records….” [Link to full story.]

More stories about legal self-help initiatives can be found at the Access to Justice website.

Why You Need to Call the Police if Your Caregiver or Employee Steals From You

Hat tip to Law for Real People blog: Why You Need to Call the Police if Your Caregiver or Employee Steals From You

Excerpt: “I just had a call from a very nice person who needs caregivers around-the-clock, 365 days a year. One of these caregivers recently stole money from from my friend. My friend said it happened about six weeks ago, and that the person was no longer serving as a caregiver, so she was just going to let it go.

I had to explain to her why it was so important that she call the police:

Because other people looking to hire caregivers are going to look at the home-care workers’ registry and look at the results of the criminal background checks, and if she doesn’t file a police report about the theft, this caregiver will appear to have both a lot of experience and no problems in her background….” [Link to full blog post.]

Oregon Adds Statewide Abuse Reporting Line: (855) 503-SAFE

You may also need to call the Medicaid Fraud Unit (MFU) at 971-673-1971 (see also the DOJ Medicaid Fraud website.)

Access to Justice? “Change afoot in American civil justice system” (Legal Rebels)

“Change afoot in American civil justice system,” Jul 22, 2014, by Rebecca Love Kourlis (former justice of the Colorado Supreme Court).

“…. Due process in the American civil justice system is like sweet green grass: It is essential to our lifeblood, but too much can be deadly. Beginning in 2008, the profession began to sound the alarm that the civil justice system was indeed in danger of foundering. The ABA Section of Litigation was part of that chorus. More than 3,000 members of the section participated in a survey (PDF), which found that:

  • Litigation is too expensive (81 percent).
  • Because of those costs, smaller cases are not litigated and access is denied (82 percent).
  • Litigation costs are not proportional to the value in a small case (89 percent) nor even to the value in a large case (40 percent).
  • The cost of litigation forces cases to settle that should not settle based on the merits (83 percent)

.” [Link to full article.]

For more Access to Justice (A2J, aka ATJ) news, visit Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice blog.

Legal Reference Tips for Oregon Public Service Librarians and Library Assistants

1) There are excellent legal research guides and links at the Oregon Law Help website. Legal aid lawyers compile these materials and links to a wide range of organizations.

2) The Multnomah Bar Association produces English and Spanish versions of:

Youth Faces the Law: A Juvenile Rights Handbook and Domestic Violence: A Guide to Your Rights

3) And don’t forget our guide: OREGON LEGAL ASSISTANCE RESOURCE GUIDE (from the Washington County Law Library)

Open Law Lab: “People don’t want to talk to lawyers, but they really want legal advice.”

Open Law Lab is a wonderful website, curious, provocative, funny, wise, and more. It stands on its own (enjoy!) but it is also an excellent companion to Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog.

One of my (several) favorite Open Law Lab “images of law” is the blog post titled: Law for Normal People. It includes a graphic with this text that pretty much sums up everything that makes legal self-help center and public law library program management so confounding:

“People don’t want to talk to lawyers, but they really want legal advice. (See its original posting at the Stanford d. school blog, Whiteboard.) And read more about the lawyer / artist: Margaret Hagan.

New Roles for Non-Lawyers to Increase Access to Justice

Richard Zorza & David Udell Article: New Roles for Non-Lawyers to Increase Access to Justice

You can also link to this article from the SRLN website or from Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice blog, where you will be able to find dozens, hundreds, of other practical and provocative articles on Access to Justice issues.

Hilarious (and Dark) Side of Automated Court Services: Replacing Courts with Websites

Link from Richard Zorza’s inimitable Access to Justice blog: A Cautionary Tale — Cartoon Points Out the Downsides of Automated Courts

Access to justice and court systems broken (and broke)?

If our courts are broke, how can Californians get divorced? An idea,” by Ted Rall:

Excerpt: “Opinion: If our courts are broke, how can Californians get divorced? An idea….

…. We need a better way. No, not a bigger budget: that would solve the problem and reduce unemployment.

No, what we need is to automate the court system! There are, after all, algorithm-based lie detectors that determine whether you’re telling the truth by analyzing a scan of your face. Since California’s courts handle millions of cases each year, a huge database of precedents can be uploaded and used as a basis to help determine the outcome of new and future matters. And we already know from last year’s trouble-free launch of Obamacare that the Internet is the perfect tool for replacing old-fashioned human-based bureaucracies.

What could go wrong?” [Link to cartoon and commentary.]

Which Version of Dred Scott, Plessy, or Bush v. Gore Do You Want?: U.S. Supreme Court Rewrites (ur, edits) Past Opinions

When you rely on a judicial opinion to support your cause, which version of the case do you carry into court? This is the 21st century law librarian and bench-bar dilemma.

Even if you solve the authenticity and and copyright problems (and we’re nowhere near doing that), what are we going to do about the Supreme Court?

See, Final Word on U.S. Law Isn’t: Supreme Court Keeps Editing,” by Adam Liptak, May 24, 2014 (re the upcoming article, The (Non)Finality of Supreme Court Opinions,” by Richard J. Lazarus, 128 HARV. L. REV. ___ (forthcoming 2014)).

See also, Victor Li article, “Who owns the law? Technology reignites the war over just how public documents should be,” ABA Journal, June 1, 2014

From my perspective as a public law librarian: We know far less about the provenance and authenticity of online public domain statutes and cases than we know about the provenance and authenticity of a Bitcoin or a painting on sale at Sotheby’s. (And now it appears that we might know even less than we thought about U.S. Supreme Court cases published in the (formerly?) official U.S. Reports. I’d hold on to those hard bound volumes if I were you. It might be the only way to find out if an opinion has been rewritten.)

There are courts and legislatures that just want to make law; they do precious little to budget for preservation and authentication, or make the laws searchable, without which “accessibility” is an illusion. (Posting the equivalent of slip opinions and slip laws on websites is not “access to justice” or “access to the law” or “access to the courts.”)  And feeling the wonder and “magic” of the internet, without more, should not put one in thrall to those who proclaim their internet expert and arbiter status. Remember the Emperor’s New Clothes?

There are self-represented litigants (and others without expert legal research skills, e.g. legislators, journalists, teachers, students, etc.) who don’t know how to distinguish actual, official, and relevant law from all the “law-like” crap online. Other than the public law librarians, civics teachers and their partners, and the dedicated Civil Gideon providers (legal aid, pro bono, etc.) who try to teach responsible and effective legal research there is no concerted effort to teach self-represented litigants how to do the legal research equivalent of “safe online shopping.” And do these self-represented litigants stand a chance against a Supreme Court and a Congress (let’s not forget the “editing” of the Congressional Record) that have no scruples when it comes to rewriting history? But then the victor has always been able to rewrite history; are the victorious internet hackers, public and private ones, carrying on the tradition?

Excerpt from: “Final Word on U.S. Law Isn’t: Supreme Court Keeps Editing,” by Adam Liptak, May 24, 2014: “WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include “truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon.

The court can act quickly, as when Justice Antonin Scalia last month corrected an embarrassing error in a dissent in a case involving the Environmental Protection Agency.

But most changes are neither prompt nor publicized, and the court’s secretive editing process has led judges and law professors astray, causing them to rely on passages that were later scrubbed from the official record. The widening public access to online versions of the court’s decisions, some of which do not reflect the final wording, has made the longstanding problem more pronounced….” [Link to full article.]