IAALS Awardees Strive for Better Court Connection and Trust
Rebuilding Justice Award recipients recognized for work in eviction and family court to increase access to justice

by Avery Martinez
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The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System recognized two attorneys involved in the fight for access to justice at the organization’s 13th Annual Rebuilding Justice Award Celebration on Tuesday. The recipients Margaret Hagan, Director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford Institute of Design, and the late Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady were celebrated for their leadership and innovation in advancing the justice system, including their efforts toward “user-centric reforms” in family courts that lead to better pathways for families across the country, according to the institute’s website.

Hagan has been researching innovative ways to use technology and reform court documents to engage tenants and landlords in the eviction legal system, and Cady had worked to make reforms to the Iowa courts to increase the public trust.

“I really believe at this point with the access to justice movement, we have to think about being more strategic in how we allocate our resources, more coordinated in talking and learning from each other, and really focused on impact and being effective — to really gather data and figure out what is making a difference in people’s outcomes with their housing, their finances, their family and their physical security,” Hagan said.

Hagan said the Legal Design Lab has focused on how people intending to use the civil justice system to resolve housing, financing, debt, family and other issues can actually participate in the justice system — going to courts, getting legal aid access and defending their rights.

And in particular, the group looks at the use of new technology, social media and other online options to seek access to justice

In terms of housing, Hagan noted the crisis was already in place — but COVID has only increased the difficulties.

This complete article appeared in the Oct. 26 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online. Subscribers can request a digital PDF of the issue.