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IAALS is pleased to announce that Carla van Dongen, Vice President – Counsel for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, will chair our Business Leadership Network (BLN). In this role, she will also serve on IAALS’ Board of Advisors as liaison for BLN. In addition, Van Dongen already serves on our US Justice Needs Advisory Committee, which has helped guide the development of our justice needs surveys of people and businesses across all corners of the country in an effort to close the justice gaps in our society. We are thrilled to have Van Dongen even more involved in…
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world and infected millions. In the United States, we are inching toward 7.5 million cases, with over 200,000 lives lost. Alongside the impacts on health and human livelihood, the pandemic has delivered a global economic crisis, with the World Bank predicting “the deepest global recession in eight decades.” In the United States, we have seen a health and economic crisis at a scale and speed “unprecedented in the history of the United States.” Further still, the pandemic has created a crisis in our justice system. Unlike a natural disaster, government shutdown, or cuts…
Election Day is less than a month away, and although much of the focus has been on the presidential race, down-ballot categories—such as those for judges—are just as important. Judges are vital to our communities and our democracy. It is essential that the public is not only informed about a judge’s performance on the job, but that the public also has a say in whether or not the judge stays on the bench. That’s why Our Courts Colorado, a nationally recognized organization that informs the understanding of the state and federal courts, has released a series of PSAs encouraging…
IAALS has launched a new award to recognize innovators who have made significant impacts early in their legal careers toward making the American legal system work better for everyone who needs it and everyone who is a part of it: the Alli Gerkman Legal Visionary Award. The award is in honor of Alli Gerkman, who was a leader in national legal education and legal profession reform, her local and larger legal community, and here at IAALS. Through her work, she transformed the way our nation thinks about legal education and the role lawyers play in our society, and her…
Courts across the country, from small municipal courts to the Supreme Court, have made giant strides in the use of technology in the wake of COVID-19. Historically slow to embrace technology, courts have shown unprecedented flexibility in the past six months; video- and teleconference hearings, text notifications, virtual juries, chatbots, and other technologies have become staples in some courts rather than exceptions. Yet once the pandemic is over, will it stay that way? The Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) are urging state court officials to continue this momentum, and they have recommended…
Many states are exploring regulatory reform as a means through which to drive innovation in the legal services sector (and hopefully to increase access to justice(1) more broadly). While approaches differ considerably by state, through their efforts, each state is balancing access to justice realities against the need to protect the public. When it comes to discussions on how best to strike this balance, though, the public is rarely involved. As Jim Sandman notes in a recent Talk Justice podcast episode: “Often when issues about proposed regulatory changes implicate protection of the public, we look to lawyers to speak for the…
It’s my honor to serve as IAALS’ interim executive director while we conduct a nationwide search for our next visionary leader. Since stepping into the interim role in July, I have loved seeing firsthand how IAALS’ work makes a real difference at a time when it’s needed most. Here are a few examples: For the people of our nation, we have identified and promoted the qualities that lawyers need to be successful for clients, we have developed new ways for families to navigate the divorce process, and our work is rebuilding public trust and confidence in the justice system. Through…
Courts around the country are rethinking their approaches to everything in this chaotic and uncertain time, including how to move forward with trials—both civil and criminal. Texas, one of the largest jurisdictions in the nation, has recently completed an extensive review of their court operations and have proposed new recommendations for resuming jury trials. “A hallmark of our justice system is the right to a jury trial,” said Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht. “The pandemic has challenged our ability to safely deliver on that promise, but through the efforts of many Texas judges, clerks, court staff, and…
In the wake of ceaseless and unjustifiable deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police across the country, a long-suppressed outrage has erupted into a demand for justice. Our willingness as a society to allow racial inequity to persist for centuries is rotting the core of our democracy and eating away at the public trust and confidence of our legal system. It is time for a reckoning that demands we examine, acknowledge, and reform the multiple systems in place that perpetuate inequality and inaccessibility to the fundamental rights that must be guaranteed to all. A critical examination…
In a determined effort to ensure family courts are more efficient, user friendly, and less adversarial, the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators recently adopted a resolution in support of redesigning court processes for families. The resolution, passed in July, serves as a call to action for state courts to implement the Family Justice Initiative’s (FJI) guidelines. “It is our hope that this call to action will help family courts respond to the common barriers presented by high caseloads, limited staffing, complex procedures, narrow service options, and increased numbers of self-represented litigants,” said Alaska Chief…
On September 25, IAALS hosted a virtual donor appreciation reception to recognize and thank the many generous donors who make all our work possible.  “We all share something in common, I think,” said Sam Walker, interim executive director, as he opened the program, “Which is an appreciation for something that might strike some as an abstraction—the rule of law. But it’s not an abstraction, because it’s a pillar of our American way of life and our democracy. And the fact that you have chosen to be involved in our work and to contribute time, talent, and resources to it means…
On August 27, the Arizona Supreme Court voted unanimously to eliminate its ethics rules barring nonlawyers from having an economic interest in law firms or participating in fee-sharing and streamlined rules governing how lawyers can advertise and connect with potential clients. The court also approved a new category of nonlawyer licensee called “Legal Paraprofessionals” (LPs), who will be able to represent clients in court. The approved changes adopt and enact the recommendations made by Arizona’s Task Force on the Delivery of Legal Services. In February, the task force filed a petition with the supreme court to eliminate Ethical Rule…
On September 17, IAALS Founding Executive Director Rebecca Love Kourlis and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch published an op-ed in USA Today commending recent legal regulatory reforms in Utah and Arizona, and calling for more states across the country to make similar bold changes. Kourlis and Gorsuch make the case that our legal system—as it operates now—is too inaccessible for everyday Americans and that legal services are out of reach. And they acknowledge that, “[a]s lawyers and judges, we cannot ignore that the problem is partly of our own making.” Lawyers have long benefited from the unique privilege of…
September 17 marks Constitution Day, a day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution—undoubtedly the most influential document in American history—in 1787. In order to celebrate, IAALS is looking back on a series of perspectives we published in 2016, authored by members of our O’Connor Advisory Committee. Comprised of leaders across our government, judiciary, and legal profession, the group of authors share their wisdom and experience, grounded in a belief that an independent judiciary is crucial to both the rule of law and the functioning of our democratic republic. Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor (Ret.), discusses…
The Iowa farmer had some questions. Letter in hand, he called our number and got right down to business: “Is this legitimate? Is this for real?” It was a question I had heard numerous times before, but the tone varied between the callers—often skeptical or incredulous, occasionally wistful. The farmer opted for direct, so I answered him in kind: “It is, sir. It is.” “Okay, then,” he said. “Tell me more.” The farmer had been invited to one of IAALS’ workshops with recent divorce litigants, this one set in Des Moines in collaboration with the Iowa courts, and he wondered…
State judicial misconduct . . . . How much? What kinds? What do discipline bodies do about it? For starters, consult IAALS’ analysis and recommendations for those bodies and its sources. Follow Cynthia Gray’s long-standing and essential Judicial Ethics and Discipline blog, the closest thing we have to a common law of judicial discipline. And read Reuters’ report on “[t]housands of U.S. judges who broke laws, oaths [but] remained on the bench,” available here (with links to two shorter articles summarizing conclusions and methods), here, and here. Each state has established discipline bodies to consider complaints of…