Thanks to a grant that Colorado was one of just seven states to receive, we are able to learn more about how citizens without legal representation feel about access and fairness in the courts, helping us determine how and where we can improve.
The Access Fairness 2017 Survey Report for the Colorado 1st Judicial District, based on 222 exit surveys completed at the Jefferson County Courthouse on June 26, 2017, shows that 80 percent of respondents feel that the courts are accessible, while 71 percent said they believed they were treated fairly.
Within the question of accessibility, 75 percent of respondents agreed that court’s hours made it easy to do their business, while 74 percent found the forms clear and easy to understand. The courts scored the lowest on the statement that the litigant was able to get their court business done in a reasonable time, with 71 percent agreeing. The court scored highest with safety, with 90 percent of respondents saying they felt safe in the courthouse.
On the matter of fairness, 66 percent of respondents agreed that their case was handled fairly while 67 percent agreed that the judge listened to their side of the story before making a decision and that the judge or magistrate had the necessary information for making a good decision in the case. 71 percent felt that they were treated the same as everyone else. Meanwhile, the court did the best regarding the statement that when litigants leave the court, they know what to do next about their case, with 82 percent agreeing or strongly agreeing.
While the Colorado legal community is happy to see that so many people who cannot afford an attorney feel that they are treated fairly and leave their court date knowing what to do next, this survey also shows that there is more work to do, based on this year’s numbers. And on almost all of the statements, fewer respondents agreed or strongly agreed in 2017 than during the 2015 survey. This is why it’s a good thing that the Justice For All Planning Grant from the National Center for State Courts is giving the state tools to learn and improve.
Since January, members of the legal community have taken inventory of access to justice activities across the state and analyzed their strengths and areas of weakness. They’ve broken into working groups to develop recommendations regarding various strengths and weaknesses.
In October, they will convene at a summit to discuss their findings and develop a strategic plan to be implemented next year.
Click here to view the full results Access Fairness 2017 Survey.
Jacquelyn Gutc of Magpie Media contributed to this article.