ABA Gives Grants to State Access to Justice Programs

CHICAGO, Dec. 13, 2012 – A project of the _ announced today that it has awarded grants to state access to justice commissions in Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Washington to promote innovation in civil legal aid delivery to people of limited means.

The ABA Access to Justice Commission Expansion Project also gave grants to help develop new state access-to-justice commissions and strengthen emerging commissions. Recipients are the Georgia State Bar Access to Justice Committee, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, Indiana Bar Foundation, Montana Justice Foundation, New Hampshire Access to Justice Commission, Supreme Court of Virginia and Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands.

The grants are funded by the Public Welfare Foundation, the Bauman Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.

The innovation grants will fund projects that will help expand the availability of lawyers who provide services to clients on individual tasks (known as “limited-scope representation”) and other models for affordable services; improve language access and eliminate implicit cultural bias in the justice system; and use public libraries as access points for legal aid.

Other projects will enhance fundraising for legal aid outside the legal community; create partnerships with health care and social services providers, government agencies and other new allies; preserve access for low-income people as courts implement e-filing; and increase web-based delivery of pro bono services for self-represented litigants.

“The grants represent a significant new phase in expanding access to justice across the country,” said California Court of Appeal Justice Laurie Zelon, chair of the ABA advisory group that made the funding decisions.

Access to justice commissions are formal entities that bring together the highest level of the state’s courts, organized bar and other stakeholders to support the expansion of access to justice in civil matters for low-income and other disadvantaged people. As of October, 27 states and the District of Columbia have access to justice commissions.

“The emergence of state access to justice commissions has been one of the great successes of the last decade,” said Lisa Wood, a partner with Foley Hoag in Boston and chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, which oversees the work of the association’s Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives.

Existing access to justice commissions have had a major impact in expanding support for self-represented litigants in the courts, increasing state-level funding for civil legal aid and developing new initiatives to increase pro bono services. Commissions also promote collaboration and coordination among civil legal aid providers; build commitments to pro bono and support for legal aid among law students and new lawyers; and increase awareness among legislators and policymakers, the bar, the judiciary and the general public about the legal needs of low-income and disadvantaged people and the social and economic benefits of ensuring they do not go unmet.

Additional information about the 2012 ABA grants and the 2013 application process is available at www.ATJsupport.org, under “Grants.”

ABA Access to Justice Commission Expansion Project

2012 Innovation Grants

Alabama Access to Justice Commission. Web-based delivery of pro bono services for self-represented litigants. Adapt the innovative Online Tennessee Justice program, through which volunteer lawyers provide pro bono advice online, for use in Alabama; integrate into new Alabama Access to Justice Commission web site.

Colorado Access to Justice Commission. Limited-scope representation; models for affordable services. Develop standards, rules, forms and training events for limited-scope, low-fee, mentored new lawyer, and other fee-based delivery models for people of limited income; develop referral lists for self-help-centers, libraries, pro bono coordinators, referral services and advocates.

Hawaii Access to Justice Commission. Language access; implicit cultural bias. Integrate language services for limited-English-proficient self-represented litigants at self-help centers in each judicial circuit; conduct training for attorneys on needs of limited-English-proficient clients; conduct conference for judges, court staff and lawyers on implicit bias issues.

Maine Justice Action Group. Public libraries as point of access for legal aid. Develop a statewide network of libraries, pro bono lawyers and providers to make law-related programming and resources available through local libraries; develop print and web-based materials; format “workshop in a box” presentations for use in libraries and online; develop web-based process to facilitate coordination.

Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. Fundraising outside the legal community. Develop prototype statewide fundraising campaign for legal aid aimed outside legal community, such as corporations, business leaders and wealthy individuals.

Mississippi Access to Justice Commission. Delivery partnerships with health care, social services, and other new partners. Convene access to justice summit to catalyze plans for coordination among legal services providers and new partners, to include social service and health care providers, government agencies, and nonprofits; launch working groups leading to final plan with recommendations.

Washington Access to Justice Board. E-filing. Develop state best practices on e-filing, based on review of necessary technical consideration and outreach to local court staff, with goal of ensuring that all county systems provide minimum functionality and accessibility.

With nearly 400,000 members, the _ is the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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