MA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION UPDATE – March 12, 2020

We hope you are all well. We are closely monitoring the news regarding COVID-19 as it impacts the Commissioners and access to justice issues generally. We will also continue to share general information and news on access to justice matters.

MA ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION UPDATE

March 12, 2020

The Commission’s Activities Highlighted

Commissioner Joel Feldman’s work highlighted in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly

On February 20, 2020, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly published an article “New western Mass. network seeks to boost representation in eviction cases”. The article calls attention to the imbalance in representation by counsel between tenants and landlords in eviction cases and highlights the great work that Attorney Feldman and his firm, Heisler, Feldman & McCormick, are undertaking to enable the private bar to fill the gap in representation for tenants. Attorney Feldman’s firm uses a fee shifting model and plans to share their knowledge of this model with others through the newly created Tenant Attorney Network.  Attorney Feldman chairs the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission’s Access to Attorneys Committee, which promotes limited assistance representation and law school incubators, along with this type of fee-shifting model.

Commission’s Report on Cell Phones highlighted in Court Leader’s Advantage Podcast

On February 20, 2020, Court Leader’s Advantage released a Podcast, “Is It Time for a Fresh Look at Cell Phones and Courts?”. Judge Cynthia Cohen, Retired Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Appeals Court and member of the Commission’s Cell Phone Policy Committee, and Jeffrey Morrow, Director of Security for the Massachusetts Trial Courts, were interviewed on the podcast. The podcast includes discussion of access to justice concerns related to cell phones in courts and the research on the topic done in Massachusetts.

Online Course for Public Libraries: Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice.

Barriers to civil legal justice disproportionately affect low-income people in the U.S, creating the justice gap. Public libraries are well-positioned to help reduce this gap. OCLC’s WebJunction is offering a free, live online course beginning April 6, 2020 that will strengthen public library staff’s knowledge and ability to direct library users to relevant, helpful civil legal information and services.

In this course you will learn about:

  • The role of public libraries in addressing the justice gap
  • The difference between legal information and legal advice
  • How to conduct a legal reference interview
  • Addressing patron stress and anxiety
  • Strengthening your library’s civil legal reference collection
  • Finding trusted local and state resources
  • How to build relationships with local legal aid and referral organizations

To learn more about the course, see the Creating Pathways to Civil Legal Justice FAQs.

For more on WebJunction and Legal Services Corporation’s training initiative Improving Access to Civil Legal through Public Libraries see oc.lc/legal-justice.