Here is more information on the new grant to the ABA to support ATJ Commissions.
An American Bar Association project has been selected to administer a $270,000 grant to support state panels that promote access to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged people.
Under the 18-month grant from the Public Welfare Foundation to the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives, more than half of the funds will go to mini-grants to help create new access to justice commissions and expand the scope and activities of existing commissions.
The resource center lists 27 states with access to justice commissions, whose members are leaders of the state’s courts, organized bar and other stakeholder groups. Most commissions were created by the state’s supreme court, and several high courts are considering creating one.
The grant will also fund travel fellowships for supreme court justices and other judges who lead access to justice commissions to attend annual ABA meetings of state access to justice chairs. In recent years, court funding shortfalls have kept many judicial leaders from traveling to the meetings.
The grant will also enable the ABA to offer regular telephone conferences on current issues for commission leaders and staff, develop new resource materials on best practices and innovations, and provide training for commission staff.
State access to justice commissions have increased awareness among legislators and other key 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 that they do not go unmet. They have helped expand support for self-represented litigants in the courts, increase state-level funding for civil legal aid, and develop initiatives to increase pro bono services by lawyers.
A companion grant to the National Center for State Courts will help strengthen the role of state judges and courts in improving access to legal services for low-income people through court-based innovations, the development of an access to justice center for the court community and related activities.
I am really thrilled to see that there are going to be resources in this area. I believe that commissions are critical, not only as fundraisers for legal aid, and as promoters of court and pro bono innovation, but ultimately as planners and coordinators of each state system.
The regular phone calls will help turn this into a real national movement. The grants to start or expand the work of commissions will expand and give depth to their work.
Seeing DOJ support commissions, seeing Rebecca Sandefur pointing out the urgent need for coordination, and now this grant, makes me much more hopeful.