On April 10, the State Justice Institute (SJI) launched its Funding Toolkit for State Courts and Justice System Partners, hosting a webinar to introduce attendees to the toolkit. The Funding Toolkit is designed to support courts and their partners as they pursue federal and philanthropic funding opportunities. It includes resources that cover the entire grant-seeking writing and management process, such as planning checklists, sample documents, frequently asked questions, and fact sheets. SJI is also providing technical assistance to courts as part of the toolkit.

SJI’s mission is to improve the quality of justice in state courts and foster innovative and efficient solutions for commonly faced issues. As such, the organization is well aware of the important role that funding plays in fostering innovation, as well as the reality that most courts often lack the time and capacity to search for funding opportunities. And when court stakeholders can find the time, they’re often overwhelmed by the grant writing and management process. So, the toolkit “is designed to assist courts and their justice partners in overcoming barriers to successfully accessing grant funds.” The April 10 webinar was an informative introduction to the toolkit and the ways it can help courts and their partners access the funds they need to administer justice more effectively. 

The webinar covered current court-related funding opportunities for fiscal year 2020, including SJI grants. Among these are Curriculum Adaptation & Training Grants, which are available for courts to adapt curricula or conduct training programs. A second general type of grants are Project Grants, which “are intended to support innovative education and training, demonstration, and technical assistance projects that can improve the administration of justice in state courts locally or nationwide.” This spring and summer, SJI plans to release several podcasts as well as additional planning resources; in the fall, look for grant administration resources and a grant writing webinar series. By winter, they plan on sharing funding opportunities for fiscal year 2021.

SJI has partnered with IAALS frequently over the years, most recently as part of the Civil Justice Initiative and Family Justice Initiative. SJI also played a key role in our Cases Without Counsel project, providing generous funding for our qualitative empirical research that partnered with four courts to explore the experience of self-represented litigants in family cases.

This toolkit will undoubtedly prove to be an invaluable resource for courts and their partners, especially in the upcoming fiscal year following the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding and securing grants can be a substantial undertaking, but often a necessary one. SJI’s Funding Toolkit for State Courts and Justice System Partners addresses this issue in a way that’s informative and intuitive and will help to ultimately increase access to justice.

A recording of the webinar (as well as a PDF version) can be found here.