The latest ABA Access Commissions grants have been announced.
These focus on the expansion of mission of the Commissions.
Here is the full list and description from the above linked webpage — I have bolded the key words, to help give a sense of the range of these 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 attorneys 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, 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 attorneys 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 attorneys 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 services providers, healthcare providers, government agencies, and nonprofits; launch work groups leading to final work 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.
These grants will, in my opinion, achieve a number of important goals:
- They will encourage the grantee Commissions to play a broader leadership role in access to justice, rather than just as cheerleaders/fundraisers
- Together they are promoting progress in most of the access innovations areas
- They are developing resources and tools that will be replicable and adaptable throughout the country
- They will serve to remind states that have been reluctant to establish their own commissions of the benefits of doing so
- They will strengthen networking among the Commissions, by showing the value of working together to take advantage of each others’ innovations
In short, a huge potential impact. The Advisory Group for the Project is be lauded for its vision and actions, as are all the Commissions that applied for, and received awards.
I await the products and their impact with enthusiasm, and remain convinced that strengthening the capacity and will to lead of the Commissions is critical to fulfilling the access vision.
Other Commissions should remember that there remain two future grant rounds:
• 2013 Grants to Promote the Creation of New Access to Justice Commissions:
Applications due February 15, 2013
• 2013 Innovation Grants: Applications due May 1 2013
Great Progress, but there seems to be a missing component – the self-represented. There is too much reliance on the State, judiciary, lawyers, pro bono lawyers to initiate these commissions. I believe the commissions will be best served by the self-represented Citizen in collaboration with those who love the profession. Citizens need to become empowered through education in the law rather than have them viewed to be “ordinary” people without knowledge or understanding. Their access to justice must lie within themselves and should not be contingent on their access to an attorney whether its through a paid attorney, pro bono attorney, legal aid or public legal assistance. For true access to occur, the self-represented must be “represented” by and through their own person. Otherwise, the hope of access to justice seems more of an illusion and a buzz word. There is too much of an assumption that the masses are ignorant of the law. If so, that’s where we need to begin. Remove the ignorance of the general population – don’t foster it by creating yet another layer of mediatorsin the name of access to justice.