Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Richard Zorza passed away on April 13th. For those of you who did not have the pleasure of knowing him, Richard was an amazing and brilliant thinker and social justice leader whose career was formed around access to justice. A Harvard Law School graduate, Richard, and Joan Zorza each engaged in public interest legal work throughout their careers. Joan became a respected domestic violence researcher and practitioner. Richard spent his early career as a public defender and then began a journey to introduce courts and others to how technology could be used to assist the self-represented and how courts can better manage cases involving the self-represented. One of Richard's most significant contributions was his writing and training on judicial neutrality. Richard explained that judicial neutrality was not achieved by the court's failure to inquire of pro se litigants, Rather, Richard theorized, judicial neutrality is best achieved when judicial inquiry is employed to determine the facts of a matter so that the court may make an informed decision. " As Richard alerted the judicial system " The appearance of judicial neutrality has caused us improperly to equate judicial engagement with judicial non-neutrality, and therefore to resist the forms of judicial engagement that are in fact required to guarantee true neutrality." Richard's contribution to the ethics of "judicial neutrality" and the proper way to achieve neutrality were groundbreaking and continue to influence judicial thought on cases with the self-represented. His article The Disconnect Between the Requirements of Judicial Neutrality and Those of the Appearance of Neutrality when Parties Appear Pro Se: Causes, Solutions, Recommendations, and Implications was published in 2004.
Richard's most recent contribution to self-represented literature is Five New Broad Ideas to Cut Through the Access to Justice-Commercialization-Deregulation Conundrum published in 2016.
The Legal Services Corporation recently honored Richard with a resolution recognizing his contributions to US legal development.
"Richard has devoted his professional life to improving access to justice in America, particularly for those who cannot afford to pay for counsel. He has worked as a public defender, a legal services attorney and a justice technology designer. Richard was the founder of the Self Represented Litigation Network and served as the coordinator of the Network at its inception and later on its executive committee. The Network has played an indispensable role in bringing together courts, bar associations and access to justice organizations in support of innovation in services for the self-represented. The National Conference of Chief Justices and National Conference of State Court Administrators have described Richard “as the foremost ambassador and crusader for the cause of self-represented litigants in the United States” and as a leader whose “service has been marked by exceptional accomplishments which have benefited innumerable litigants and courts throughout the nation.”