Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness
RJH Justice Complex, 25 W. Market St., PO Box 037, Trenton, NJ 08625-0037
Judge Glenn A. Grant, Chair
Janie Rodriguez, staff
About the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness
To ensure that the Judiciary, as an institution, embraces access and fairness as an integral part of its core values, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner created the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness. The work of the committee will help to set the tone for the operation of the Judiciary for the next quarter century and beyond.
The committee is comprised of judges, judiciary staff and members of various public organizations. Membership is diverse, with talent from the bench, vicinage management, central office leadership, and others such as bar associations, Legal Services of New Jersey and Sheriffs’ Association of New Jersey.
The committee is creating a statewide campaign to focus on how to 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.
Why is this important?
The millions of litigants who come to the courts each year for a just resolution of their cases must believe they are being treated fairly, with or without counsel. They must have full access to the courts, regardless of income, language barriers, disability, cultural diversity, or educational level.
The Judiciary is guided by its four core values: independence, integrity, fairness and quality service. Access and fairness are the foundation of those values and shape the experience of every litigant. Fairness cannot be attained without access to the courts, the most important component of quality service.
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Without question, the New Jersey Judiciary has accomplished a great deal to incorporate its core values into its everyday work. The Judiciary has created a coordinated and integrated approach to problem solving through conferences, committees, expanded training, and communication with staff and the public. But as the Judiciary moves forward, it must place new and greater emphasis on access to the courts and fairness in its procedures.
Some of the Judiciary’s successes include:
- 2011: Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness
New Jersey Chief Justice Stuart Rabner established the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Access and Fairness ("the Committee") to guide the judiciary in adapting to current and future demands on the courts. The committee focus is on how to best administer justice in the face of challenges such as the continued increase in the number of self-represented litigants, the growing multicultural population in New Jersey, the need for expanded language services, the economic pressures on litigants and the courts, and the need to ensure quality service and to treat each case and each litigant with dignity and respect.
- 2009: Advisory Group on Self-Representation in the New Jersey Courts
The Advisory Group on Self-Representation in the New Jersey Courts (Advisory Group) was established to assess successful programs, policies, and procedures of courts nationwide, including those in New Jersey, and to explore systemic causes for dissatisfaction or ineffectiveness among those in the pro se community as well as opportunities for innovative progress. The Advisory Group developed a set of recommendations that represent long-term strategies designed to enhance the public's experience using the New Jersey Court system while maintaining the Judiciary's integrity in the delivery of fair, impartial justice.
- 2005: Judiciary Ombudsman Program
Each vicinage offers a dedicated customer service manager to help the public navigate the courts. The ombudsman assists litigants and other members of the public by explaining court procedures, programs and services; helping self-represented litigants; directing the public to appropriate offices and court staff; working with the various divisions to resolve customer complaints; referring customers to relevant social service or legal agencies; distributing brochures and informational material; and developing court tours and community education and outreach programs.
- 2004: Supreme Court Webcasts
Webcasting of Supreme Court arguments began in January 2005 in order to provide
the public, students, attorneys, reporters, and other interested viewers with the opportunity to watch the oral arguments live on the New Jersey Judiciary's web site
njcourts.com. A collaboration between Rutgers School of Law-Newark
and the New Jersey Judiciary made webcasts of New Jersey Supreme Court oral arguments permanently available on the Rutgers web site. At the end of 30 days the webcasts are transferred to the Rutgers-Newark law school archives.
- 2002: New Jersey Municipal Court NJMCDirect
NJMCDirect allows drivers to view tickets online and pay penalties by credit card.
- 2000: Judiciary Electronic Filing and Imaging System (JEFIS)
The Judiciary Electronic Filing and Imaging System (JEFIS) allows attorneys to file documents in special civil part cases and in foreclosure actions online.
- 1998: Ad Hoc Working Group on Pro Se Materials
The Ad Hoc Working Group on Pro Se Materials was formed in 1998 to address the demands placed upon the courts by the growing number of self-represented litigants. The work of the group focused on the creation of forms and brochures, and significant progress was made in the development of self-help forms frequently used in the civil, family, criminal, tax and appellate courts.
- 1997: Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Issues
Composed of judges, lawyers, non-profit leaders and academics, the 27-member task force was appointed by the Supreme Court in June 1997. In focus groups and in its survey of judges, lawyers, litigants and witnesses, the task force found that most respondents do not believe discrimination based on sexual orientation is a pervasive problem in the New Jersey court system. The survey did indicate, however, that those who identified themselves as gay or lesbian reported problems to a greater degree than the overall population of respondents. It its final report, the task force made recommendations for ongoing education for judges and court employees, and communication to staff, litigants and their attorneys about how to report incidents of bias or discrimination.
- 1995: Judiciary InfoNet and Internet Websites
The websites were developed to ensure Judiciary information and resources were made available to the public and court employees. The external site, njcourts.com, has since gained national recognition for its comprehensiveness and social media usage.
- 1995: Judiciary Advisory Committee on ADA Compliance
The Supreme Court constituted this committee to recommend to the chief justice goals, policies, practices and procedures to be followed by the Judiciary to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related laws. Attention is given to training, communication, compliance, enforcement and review of procedures relating to the ADA and the needs of the elderly.
- 1983: Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns
Since the early 1980s the Judiciary determined that . " the same bias that has affected all of society for so long exists in all of its institutions, including the Judiciary." To ensure that fair and equitable access to the courts for racial and ethnic minority court users, judges and employees, the court designed and implemented a comprehensive action plan to "rid the court of all vestiges of bias and discrimination in the state court system." The Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns, with the collaboration of its local vicinages advisory committee on minority concerns monitors and reports on the progress made in implementing the system-wide recommendations and institutional enhancements.
- 1983: Equal Employment Opportunity Reaffirmation Statement
"The New Jersey Judiciary is committed to the principles and goals of fairness, equality, courtesy and respect for all individuals." These principles are embodied in the Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Anti-Discrimination and are reflected in the principles and policies that guide the activities and operations of the court system as an employer and as an arbiter of justice. The EEO/AA Master Plan spells out in detail these operational principles and guidelines; outcome measures are routinely reported to the court and the public.
- 1983: Law Clerk Diversity Initiative
In an effort to increase minority participation in the Law Clerk Program, the Judiciary, as a result of data collection by the Minority Concerns Committee, implemented this initiative to increase awareness in the program and actively recruit minorities into Law Clerk positions.
- 1982: Supreme Court Task Force on Interpreter and Translation Services
The Supreme Court adopted the principle of "equal access to courts for linguistic minorities" in 1985, acting on the recommendations of the Supreme Court Task Force on Interpreter and Translation Services. The Court reiterated its support for that principle in 1993 when it stated in its Action Plan on Minority Concerns that, "the courts and their support services shall be equally accessible for all persons regardless of the degree to which they are able to communicate effectively in the English language." Chief Justice Deborah T. Poritz
- 1982: Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts
Since 1982, the Judiciary has monitored its progress in achieving gender fairness in the New Jersey Courts. Periodic surveys and focus groups guide the current Supreme Court Committee on Women in the Courts in its efforts to address ongoing issues through training and educational programs for judges, attorneys, courts staff and others.
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Did you know?
There are a lot of interesting facts about the New Jersey Judiciary relating to access and fairness. This section includes a sample of data and factual highlights.
Did you know the New Jersey Judiciary's website, njcourts.com, won international awards in 2003 and 2008? New Jersey was praised for "a great one-stop-shop for most court services in the state." The website, which has become an indispensible part of our operation, is a critical resource for the public to find court decisions, pay motor vehicle fines, learn about jobs and volunteer opportunities, download forms and instructions for litigants representing themselves in court, get information to request a court interpreter or an ADA accommodation and more.
Did you know that in 1995 the New Jersey Supreme Court constituted the Judiciary Advisory Committee on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Compliance? The committee recommends to the Chief Justice goals, policies, practices and procedures to be followed by the judiciary to comply with the requirements of the ADA and related laws. There is an ADA Coordinator in every vicinage to assist the public with accommodations.
Court Access for Persons with Disabilities
Did you know that in 2010 the New Jersey Judiciary recorded 722 Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations? This includes the municipal courts.
Did you know more than 80,000 interpreting events occur in New Jersey Superior Courts every year; that court interpreters are needed in more than 80 languages; and that New Jersey courts provide court interpreting services free of charge?
Standards for Delivery Interpreting Services in the NJ Judiciary
Court Interpreting Statistics
Did you know there is a Judiciary Ombudsman in every vicinage? These dedicated customer service managers provide one-on-one specialized services to court users, work with the community to promote public trust and confidence in the courts and make recommendations to improve court services. Many ombudsmen regularly hold public workshops/seminars on topics such as foreclosure, landlord/tenant, child support and custody, divorce, and expungements.
Calendar of Court Seminars and Public Events
Did you know the New Jersey Judiciary has five self-help centers to assist self-represented litigants in their court matters? Anyone can visit these centers regardless of where their case is filed or where they reside. The centers are located in the Essex, Mercer, Monmouth, Morris and Union County courthouses. For more information contact the ombudsman in those counties.
Did you know the New Jersey Judiciary is committed to the principles and goals of fairness, equality, courtesy and respect for all individuals? These principles are embodied in the Policy Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Anti-Discrimination and are reflected in the principles and policies that guide the activities and operations of the court system as an employer and as an arbiter of justice. The EEO/AA Master Plan spells out in detail these operational principles and guidelines; outcome measures are routinely reported to the court and the public.
Judiciary Policy Statement on EEO/AA and Anti-Discrimination
EEO Judiciary Master Plan
Did you know that the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns is tasked with assisting and advising the Supreme Court with the implementation of court-approved recommendations designed to "rid the court of all vestiges of bias and discrimination." Since 1986, the judiciary increased minority representation for judges and senior management as follows:
Minority Judges: 4.3%
Women Judges: 7.1%
Minority Judges: 15.2%
Women Judges: 31.6%
Minority Senior Mgmt: 8.3%
Women Senior Mgmt: 22.2%
Minority Senior Mgmt: 27.4%
Women Senior Mgmt: 57.5%