Its now 20 years since Washington State launched the first Access to Justice Commission (actually they called it a Board).
The Commissions Network now covers over half the states, continues to expand, and is recognized as at the core of the overall national access strategy. The Conference of Chiefs has endorsed the approach.
However, there is a wide variety of forms of appointment, membership models, scope of authority, internal structure, relationship to the state Supreme Court, funding, hosting, relationship to IOLTA program, etc.
Maybe it is time to do an overall evaluation of the benefits and costs of different approaches to these organizational and structural issues. Maybe we can start to identify best practices. Yes, the situations in the states are all very different, but that does not make it impossible to analyze what works where, and why.
Perhaps its time to move to the next level of commissions. This may be the way to start that process.
Great to see that budgetary issues are not the focus on ATJC Connecticut. Its also wonderful to see that there are citizens from all spaces interested in the health of the judicial system;s infrastructure. The general public needs to have their voices heard by public servants in the Judiciary.
Reblogged this on Texas Poverty Law Blog.
In Connecticut, our ATJC was established by our Chief Justice to capture under one umbrella the variety of efforts within the Judicial Branch to increase access to justice (many of those efforts were formalized under the implementation of our long-term Strategic Plan). What I think is unique is that our membership, and the membership of the previous Public Service & Trust Commission, is as diverse as our stakeholders, and everyone has an equal voice. Represented are law schools; various members of the Bar, including the DAG, CPD, and SA from the public sector, and, from the private sector in-house counsel, big law, solo and mid-size firms, and of course, our legal aid community. The Commission is co-chaired by two judges; Branch staff also play key roles, and the Judge who chairs the Branch’s (very active) Pro Bono Committee is also a member. The Commission supported a (successful) effort by one of the legal aid members to secure a grant, and we are partnering with three legal aid providers in seeking a grant that will seed the foundation of a legal aid fellows program that will be largely funded by corporate donors. Again, the collaboration here is huge. Interestingly, there is no per se Commission budget; the ATJC is chaired by Judges and supported by staff who provide research, information sharing, etc. to all members. We are about to begin implementing a few projects that were recommneded in our first Annual Report and we will expand and contract our membership as necessary (projects include establishing a plan for a statewide moderate means program similar to Washington State; developoing a concrete collaboration between law librarians, public librarians, legal aid providers and the Branch’s Court Service Center staff that will give the public librarians the tools they need to assist folks in accessing information; and developing pro bono projects that make use of technology, and increase pro bono). While lots of other states have Commissions with dedicated (and compensated) staff, what we are doing so far seems to be working.