Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has announced the formation of the Supreme Court Committee on Access and Fairness.
The committee will comprise judges, court managers, and representatives from outside organizations to work together on ways to enhance the public’s trust and confidence in the courts.
The chief justice has appointed Judge Glenn A. Grant, acting administrative director of the courts, as chair of the newly formed committee. Appellate Judge Francine I. Axelrad, who chairs the Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts, and Superior Court Judge Susan F. Maven, who chairs the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns, will serve as vice chairs.
“The millions of litigants who come to the courts each year for a just resolution of their cases are entitled to believe that they have been treated respectfully and fairly in a neutral forum,” Chief Justice Rabner said,
“At the same time, all people, regardless of income, language barriers, or cultural or educational background, must have full access to the courts,” the chief justice said. “This committee will look at ways to improve our operations so that we can meet those needs in every case.”
The committee, which will hold its first official business meeting today, will create a statewide campaign to focus on how the courts administer justice in the face of such challenges as the continued increase in the number of self-represented litigants, the economic pressures applied to litigants and to the courts, and the need to treat each case and each litigant with dignity and respect.
“New Jersey has been a national leader in addressing issues of access and fairness,” Judge Grant said. “With wide representation from all parts of our legal system, this committee will take the critical next step to bring together our many efforts to improve the quality of justice and court experience for our many constituencies.”
Beginning in the early 1980s with the Supreme Court Task Force on Interpreter and Translation Services, the Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts and the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns, the New Jersey Judiciary has a strong tradition of critical self-analysis. More recent efforts include the Ad Hoc Working Group on Pro Se Materials, internal training programs to build cultural competency for staff and judges, and the statewide ombudsman program.
The access and fairness committee was formed as a result of a recommendation in the 2009 Report of the Advisory Group on Self-Representation in the New Jersey Courts. Formed in 2008, the advisory group analyzed the Judiciary’s efforts to serve litigants who represent themselves in court and made 25 recommendations to make the courts more accessible and fair for all litigants.