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Access to Justice Design & Testing Program

Office with sledgehammer in front, lawyers and clients discussing court issues or justice at meeting Law and order. The concept of courts and legislatures
A new data collection effort measuring and reporting access to justice for civil legal needs
  • Client
    Bureau of Justice Statistics
  • Dates
    November 2023 – October 2026


Gaps in information exist regarding who has access to justice for civil legal needs.

There is a need for national data on the linkages between the civil and criminal justice systems. The goal of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ Access to Justice Design and Testing Program (AJDTP) is to identify and fill gaps in statistical coverage of access to justice for civil legal needs that will inform an understanding of the intersection between the criminal justice system and the civil justice system. 

Program Goals

NORC and partners will pilot a new Civil Legal Needs Survey.

NORC at the University of Chicago and the American Bar Foundation (ABF) Access to Justice Research Initiative will work in collaboration with Bureau of Justice Statistics and civil legal needs experts to finalize and cognitively test the Civil Legal Needs Survey. The survey will be sent to a sample of 5,000 addresses in the U.S. with a request to complete the survey. Data will be collected by web and telephone.

To complement the survey, NORC and ABF will also develop a knowledge base of the current landscape of existing research related to access to justice for legal needs. This work will identify existing types of data that might be used in a feasibility test to more fully understand civil legal use and needs. 


A strategy for national reporting will be developed.

NORC and ABF will analyze both the pilot survey data and data used for the feasibility test. De-identified pilot data will be made publicly available on the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data. Final reports summarizing the pilot data collection and the feasibility test will also be made publicly available. 

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