Whether or not you agree with the measure proposed by the discussion in this archive of comment on Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision, Turner v. Rogers, the idea of a "justice index" is compelling. (Remember that Michiganders are now living in a metrics-driven policy land in which "dashboards" are supposed to be popping up all over the place.) David Udell at Concurring Opinions reminds us:
Among the facts brightly if indirectly illuminated in Turner v. Rogers by the Supreme Court’s analysis of the relationship between the “right to counsel” and “alternative safeguards,” is that so little is known about the status of unrepresented persons in our state courts and about the assistance available to help them. So little is known about what is necessary to assure “fundamental fairness” in our justice system.
The conclusion that we need better data if we are to improve our justice system is a fundamental underlying theme of the Judicial Crossroads Task Force report. Here's what Udell says we need to know:
–the number of people unrepresented in civil proceedings, and the number unrepresented when the other side is represented or when the other side is an entity of government.
–the nature and scope of services available to people who are unrepresented and whether those services are effective.
–the number of people receiving criminal convictions (pleading “time served”) without having received the right to counsel due under Gideon.
–the numbers that would tell us other important things (such as whether people are receiving needed waivers of court fees or needed interpreters).
The whole Concurring Opinion "symposium" on Rogers v. Turner is worth paying attention to.