Today sees the announcement of the awards in the Justice for All project.
As the announcement issued by NCSC and the Public Welfare Foundation put it:
“Given the large number of people who are struggling economically, the increase of self-represented people in our state courts, and severe funding deficiencies, the Public Welfare Foundation thought it was very important to put resources behind the clarion call of the chief justices and the state court administrators,” said Mary McClymont, president of the Foundation. “We wanted to help catalyze new ways of thinking and working among civil justice actors in each state. The goal is to build a coordinated and integrated continuum of services with the user in mind —people with essential civil legal needs, especially those who cannot afford lawyers. The grants will help states bring together all civil justice stakeholders to determine the most effective ways to deliver those services.”
The seven grants are to Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. It is critical for the future to note that these states represent a wide variety in terms of size, population, demographics, political orientation, and prior investments.
Perhaps the biggest news is that twenty five states applied, and have all now put substantial effort into stakeholder recruitment and collaboration building and envisioning. It has been many of our experience in the past that often groups that are not successful in such a grant process are ultimately able to achieve as much or more than those who do because of the initial energy brought together by the process.
As the announcement also stated:
Chief Justice Ralph Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and co-chair of the Advisory Committee. “We hope that all of these states, even those that we were unable to award grants, will find ways to build on the momentum they have made to identify, coordinate, and utilize the available resources to help those unable to afford counsel address their legal problems.”
With continuing Public Welfare Foundation support, the project will offer any interested states that submitted applications ongoing help with their strategic planning — including the newly developed guidance materials that describe key components of a fully integrated system, targeted technical assistance with national consultants, instructional webinars, and shared learning opportunities. A full list of ways states can receive assistance will be made available soon. Information about resources will be accessible through the JFA website: www.ncsc.org/jfap.
And, Judge Zelon is quoted:
“We all will be able to learn lessons based on the different experiences of the seven states and we hope that all the participating states can learn what makes sense for them individually as well as learn collectively from each other.”
For me, it is particularly useful to note that this project is all about ensuring that the voices of all are heard in the justice system, including those who might be viewed as having voted the way they did because of a belief that their voices are not currently being heard. That two of the states are viewed as “red” underlines that the understanding of the scope of the problem crosses the traditional fractures in our society. Indeed, the project is designed to help implement the 100% access joint resolution of COSCA and CCJ that passed unanimously.