ACCESS TO JUSTICE UPDATE JANUARY 15, 2015

ACCESS TO JUSTICE COMMISSION MEETINGS

Commission Meets In a Week: The next Commission meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 22, 2015, at 3:00 P.M. It will take place in the Fifth Floor Conference Room of the Social Law Library, located in the Adams Courthouse in Boston. The Agenda will include reports on current projects and discussion of access to justice policies.  All are welcome to attend.  This may be the final meeting of the Second Access to Justice Commission. This Commission sunsets February 28, 2015/ The Third Access to Justice Commission is expected to be appointed by the Justices of the SJC and come into existence March 1. No date for a first meeting of the new Commission has been set, but March 26, the fourth Thursday, would follow the pattern set by the current Commission.

Interested in What Another Commission Does? Florida is the most recent state to establish an Access to Justice Commission. The new Florida Commission holds its first meeting Friday January 23 at 11:00 and you can watch the proceedings in the comfort of your own office over the internet. Just link to http://www.wfsu.org/gavel2gavel/ and click on “live”.

Of particular interest, the Chief Judge of the Texas Supreme Court, Hon. Nathan Hecht, is delivering the keynote address at 1:10. He’s a good speaker and a leader of the national community of access to justice commissions.

With nearly 40 states having Commissions today, the role of such state-level organizations in forming national policy, obtaining funding and guiding access to justice approaches for judicial systems, legal services delivery and the general public is getting increased attention today. Richard Zorza, a leading thinker about litigants without lawyers (he led the Self-Represented Litigants Network for years) regularly blogs on these issues. In his most recent post, he calls for Commissions to explore grant-making such as the California Commission has done, raising money and making grants for “modest means” incubator programs. See http://accesstojustice.net.

WALK TO THE HILL JANUARY  29 at 11;00 AM

Never been? This is the year!

The 16th Annual Walk to the Hill for Civil Legal Aid convenes in the Great Hall of the People at the State House on Thursday, January 29 at 11:00. It’s a chance to connect with the huge effort being made to support a major increase in MLAC funding so that civil legal aid  justice services can take a significant step forward.  Speakers are always compelling, from SJC Justices (will they all be there) to legislative leaders (they are all sounding strong this year) to the  Governor (if he comes) to bar leaders, legal services stars and the truly memorable clients. Those who can, and want to, also speak to their home town representatives during the afternoon, after the energy packed box lunches that are provided.

See www.massbar.org, register and be part of one of the biggest lobbying events each year at the State House.

APPRORIATION DEVELOPMENTS

Legal Services Corporation:   The Congress appropriated an additional $10 million for LSC in December. The vehicle was the Continuing Resolution (every year now) that wrapped in all the pending and unresolved budget bills including  Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, where LSC is buried. The $375 million for FY 2015 split the difference between the Senate’s $385 million and the House’s $365 million. Of the new money, $7.45 million goes to basic field funding, a 2.2% increase in the LSC grants to VLP, NLA, SCCLS and CLA.

MLAC:  Here we go!  The Boston  Bar Task Force is mounting all it can in support of its report, which calls for increases of $10 million per year for the next three years. The goal is MLAC funding of $45 million starting with FY 2018.  Editorials in support abound. Analysis shows that legal aid is a good investment for government (read the impressive array of reports and  memoranda on display at www.mlac.org), producing measureable benefits for the community and reducing government expenditures.

There has never been as concerted and well-documented effort as this in Massachusetts. But there is a budget deficit facing the new Governor and he didn’t run to raise social spending.

More to come later.

Gerry Singsen

361 School Street

Watertown MA 02472

617-926-0246

617-784-9054 (c)