By DAVE COLLINS
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut’s court system scored highest among state judiciaries in serving poor, disabled and other disadvantaged members of the public, while Oklahoma’s overall score is the lowest in the country, according new rankings.
Connecticut led all states with a score of 73.4 out of 100 and was followed by Hawaii, Minnesota, New York and Delaware, respectively. Local courts in Washington, D.C., had the highest overall score at 80.9.
At the bottom was Oklahoma at 23.7, followed by Kentucky, Illinois, South Dakota and Indiana.
The “Justice Index” rankings, compiled by the nonprofit National Center for Access to Justice, are based on how states serve people with disabilities and limited English proficiency, how much free legal help is available and how states help increasing numbers of people representing themselves in court, among other issues.
Several major law firms led the research with help from law students at the University of Pennsylvania and the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City, where the center is based.
“Across the country, there are millions of people who don’t have legal representation and face other barriers in their abilities to protect their interests and enforce their rights,” said David Udell, the center’s executive director. “Our Justice Index is our online resource in identifying best practices … ensuring that people do have access to the justice system.”
The center released its first report card on the nation’s court systems in February. It issued revised rankings Thursday and is finalizing the new numbers this week, Udell said.
Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee and Maine had perfect 100 scores in serving people with disabilities, while Indiana, Georgia, Wyoming, Missouri and Idaho had the lowest scores.
Those rankings were based on issues such as whether interpretation services are offered free to the deaf and hearing-impaired and whether there are laws or rules allowing service animals in courthouses.
The index also reviewed how many civil legal aid lawyers were available to provide free legal help. Washington, D.C., had nearly nine civil legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty, the highest rate in the country. Texas had the lowest rate, 0.43 legal aid lawyers per 10,000 people in poverty.
Connecticut Chief Justice Chase Rogers said her top priority has been making the state’s justice system accessible to the public.
“This recognition would not have been possible without the commitment and hard work of the members of the (state) Access to Justice Commission, lawyers who volunteer their time, the legal aid community, court staff and many others, who continue to work on a number of fronts to enhance access to our courts,” Rogers said in a statement Monday.
A spokesman for Oklahoma courts did not return messages seeking comment about the state’s low ranking Monday.