Readers of this blog will know that a lot of networking has been going on to create a national application to the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand Justice Corps.
I am happy to report that Pro Bono Net has now filed the application. If funded, the grant would support court Justice Corps-type programs in four states: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, New York. It would also support similar non-profit based Citizenship Access programs in the following states: California, Florida, Michigan, New York, and Texas.
Here is the Executive Summary:
Three hundred fourteen JusticeCorps members will leverage an additional 1,000 volunteers to assist 48,000 excluded community members obtain access to justice across the country. In six states, members will focus on increasing civic engagement and improving economic mobility by helping naturalization-eligible community members become U.S. citizens. In four states, members will focus on helping excluded community members resolve urgent legal crises and obtain access to courts in problem areas deemed by the local community as most critical. Areas of crisis help will include housing, family law, domestic violence and consumer debt. JusticeCorps members will serve in courts and community organizations in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Texas. At the end of the project, JusticeCorps members will achieve this impact: 2,000 community members will apply for U.S. citizenship and 40,000 self-represented litigants will receive help accessing the justice system. JusticeCorps will focus on the Economic Opportunity and Veterans focus areas, and will serve as a national model for increasing civic engagement for those who serve and are served. The CNCS investment of $1,030,403 will be matched with $555,450.
Note how well the parts of the program fit together (from the narrative):
JusticeCorps Members : Addressing The Justice Gap␣ The National JusticeCorps program seeks to deploy the benefits of service and technology, not only in the courts, but also in community organizations working to provide access to non-court governmental institutions such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and to stimulate additional replication nationwide in both the court and broader governmental access contexts. ␣ JusticeCorps members will serve in a variety of capacities, with the common goal of using technology- enabled services to help more people in less time. This may take place in a workshop setting or in a one- on-one interaction, and will encompass providing litigants with information about options and referrals to appropriate services within or outside the courts, as well as assisting litigants in identifying and accurately completing needed legal forms using online tools.
The National Center for State Courts will help get the word out about the program (assuming it is funded).
More good news is that courts or others can also apply directly to their state Community Service Commissions for funding to local programs — indeed that is how California started and maintains their wonderful pilot of the whole idea. Anyone interested should contact Pro Bono Net for ideas and contacts — the tools that PBN plans on developing will be helpful in supporting such local programs, as well at the national initiative.
Finally, a special shout-out to the California Courts, who deserve every credit in the world, for thinking of a fabulous program, piloting and nurturing it, and then being so helpful in making sure that the idea can spread.
Watch this space for more news on this important initiative, which has the potential to make a major impact nationally. Lets hope that many states move forward and build this into a movement.