Access to Justice Commissions

What is an Access to Justice Commission? The mission of any Access to Justice Commission or similar entity is to ensure that access to competent legal representation is available to everyone despite income level, disability, or other disadvantage.  At a minimum this formal organization should be a collaboration between the courts, the private bar, and legal services organizations. Other branches of government, funders, law schools, and other interested entities should be included whenever possible. 

(See the ABA’s definition of Access to Justice Commission).

Why states need an Access to Justice Commission or similar entity?  The benefits of such a commission develop based on the greater collaboration and sharing of assets and information.  The commission provides an entity to coordinate and represent the various disparate groups involved in the provision of legal services to the poor.

ABA State Access to Justice Commissions List

Conference of Chief Justices Resolution 8 In Support of Access to Justice Commissions

WHEREAS, many states have established an access to justice commission to ensure the effective delivery of justice to all; and

WHEREAS, access to justice commissions have achieved remarkable results and have been recognized as one of the most important justice-related developments in the past decade as championed by Professor Laurence H. Tribe, Senior Counselor for Access to Justice, United States Department of Justice, in his remarks to the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators during their 2010 annual meeting;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators support the aspirational goal that every state and United States territory have an active access to justice commission or comparable body.

Adopted as proposed by the CCJ/COSCA Access, Fairness and Public Trust Committee at the 2010 Annual Meeting on July 28, 2010.  

National

Launching New ATJ Commissions. Several states which received ATJ Expansion Project Grants from the American Bar Association to facilitate the launch of a new Commission have produced resource materials which will be valuable to other states exploring the idea of an ATJ Commission.

Sandefur, Rebecca L. Accessing Justice in the Contemporary USA:  Findings from the Community Needs and Services Study. American Bar Foundation. (August 2014). This report presents findings from a new study of public experience with civil justice situations, the Community Needs and Services Study (CNSS), funded by the National Science Foundation and the American Bar Foundation.

Sandefur, Rebecca and Aaron C. Smyth. Access Across America First Report of the Civil Justice Infrastructure Mapping Project. American Bar Foundation. (OCTOBER 2011). This report provides a state-by-state review of the accessibility of civil legal assistance in the United States.

Office of Child Support Enforcement Fact Sheet Access to Justice Innovations Administration for Children and Families, Office of Health and Human Services. (June 2012).

International

Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.   The Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters has emerged as a voice for system wide improvements.

Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act (August 2013). Canadian Bar Association. This summary report provides an overview of issues and problems related to Access to Justice in Canada.

Access to Justice State Initiatives

Alabama

2008 Annual Report to the Supreme Court and the Alabama Bar Association Board of Bar Commissioners . Alabama Access to Justice Commission (2008).

Arizona

Arizona to launch Access to Justice Commission in 2014.

Arkansas

Greacen, John M. Services for Self-Represented Litigants in Arkansas A Report to the Arkansas Access to Justice Commission. Final Report Adopted July 26, 2013

California

California Commission on Access to Justice — 2011 Annual Report

Improving Civil Justice in Rural California Executive Summary Edition California Commission on Access to Justice. (2010).

Colorado

Talmage, Constance C. 2008 ATJ Commission Report. The Colorado Lawyer (April 2009)

Connecticut  

Access to Justice Commission Annual Report. Connecticut Judicial Branch ( October 2012).   This is the first annual report of the Access to Justice Commission chaired by Hon. Raymond R. Norko.

Delaware

Delaware Access to Justice Order, November 13, 2013

District of Columbia

"Justice for All? An Examination of the Civil Legal Needs of the District of Columbia's Low-Income Community." District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission (2008).

Rationing Justice: The Effect of the Recession on Access to Justice in the District of Columbia.” District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission (2009).

2009-2010 Annual Report . District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission. (2009).

Florida

Ensuring Access to Justice: Serving Florida’s Self-Represented Litigants (April 2008).

Hawaii

Hawaii Access to Justice Commission Annual Report (2008-2009).

Illinois

Illinois Supreme Court creates new 11-member Access to Justice Commission. (June 2012).

Indiana

Indiana Commission to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services.  (September 23, 2013).

Iowa

Report of the Joint Iowa Judges Association and Iowa State Bar Association Task Force on Pro Se Litigation . (May 2005).

Kentucky

Chief Justice Minton's remarks . (October 2010).

Louisiana

Equal Justice Under Law: A Look Inside Louisiana's Justice Community video.

Maine

Justice for All: A Report of the Justice Action Group . (2009).

Maryland

The Task Force to Study Implementing a Civil Right to Counsel will study whether low-income Marylanders should have the right to counsel at public expense in basic human needs civil cases, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health, or child custody.

My Laws, My Courts, My Maryland . The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has developed eight posters in Spanish and English that provide information on how to get legal assistance and to better understand the civil justice system.

Interim Report . Maryland Access to Justice Commission (Fall 2009).

Massachusetts

Fein, Honorable Dina E. & Sandra E. Lundy. 2011 Annual Report on the Access to Justice Initiative In the Trial Court. (June 2012).

2009 Annual Report . Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission. (2009).

Michigan

Documenting the Justice Gap in Michigan . State Bar of Michigan in collaboration with Michigan Legal Services Corporation funded providers. (Spring 2012).

Minnesota

Legal Services Planning Commission Final Report .

Mississippi

Mississippi Access to Justice Commission Report (2010).

Montana

Montana Supreme Court creates new Access to Justice Commission. (May 2012).

Nevada

The Supreme Court of Nevada created a permanent Access to Justice Commission in June 2006 to promote equal civil justice.

New Hampshire

CHALLENGE TO JUSTICE Findings and Recommendations of the New Hampshire Supreme Court Task Force on Self-Representation (January 2004).

New Mexico

Summary of 2011 Pro Bono Committee Annual Reports . Access to Justice Commission. (2012).

New York

New York State Courts Access to Justice Program  (2012)

Expanding Access to Justice in New York State (March 2009)

North Carolina

The Economic Impact to the State of North Carolina of Civil Legal Services in 2012. North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission. This report analyzes data to calculate the total direct economic benefit resulting from legal services as well as estimates of indirect economic impact and cost savings. (February 2014).

Oklahoma

On March 13, 2014 the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued an order establishing an Access to Justice Commission.

Pennsylvania

TOWARD EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL: Report of the Civil Legal Justice Coalition to the Pennsylvania State Senate Judiciary Committee April 2014. Recommends forming an Access to Justice Commission.

South Carolina

2008 Public Hearings of the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission . (April 2009).

Tennessee

Tennessee Access to Justice Commission 2014 STRATEGIC PLAN The Tennessee Access to Justice Commission was formed in 2009. This 2014 Plan details the progress made in implementing the goals of the Commission's 2012 Strategic Plan and proposes new objectives and benchmarks to address civil legal needs in the upcoming two years.

Texas

Report of the Texas Access to Justice Commission to the Supreme Court of Texas for the period December 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012(June 2012). This report summarizes the work of each committee on the Commission.

Virginia

Supreme Court of Virginia Establishes Access to Justice Commission (September 13, 2013).

Washington

Washington Access to Justice Board Annual Report (2012)

West Virginia

Recommendations of the West Virginia Access to Justice Commission (2013).

2009: Access to Justice in West Virginia Remarks of Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent D. Benjamin. The West Virginia Lawyer. (January - February 2009).

Wisconsin

Access to Justice Commission Video (2012).

Wyoming

A Call to Action to Establish a Statewide Program . Wyoming Access to Justice Commission. (December 2009).