Access to Justice Update – January 9, 2017

COMMISSION’S NEXT MEETING JANUARY 19, 2017.

The next meeting of the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission will convene at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, January19, 2017, in the Social Law Library on the fourth floor of the John Adams Courthouse, One Pemberton Plaza, Boston.  Other meetings are scheduled for March 23, May 23 and June 13. All meetings are open to the public.

The agenda for the meeting is still being prepared. Among the topics likely to be considered are the first steps that have been taken under the $l00,000 Justice for All planning grant, continuation of the legislative campaign to extend housing court jurisdiction statewide, formation of a new Committee to look into access issues peculiar to cases involving both civil and criminal issues, prospects for funding under the Victims of Crime Act, and developments regarding federal appropriations for the  Legal Services Corporation for FY 2017 and 2018 and for MLAC’s request for a $5 million budget increase for FY 2018.

COMMISSION WEBSITE: the Commission’s website has undergone a facelift. Take a look at www.massa2j.org.

WALK TO THE HILL SCHEDULED FOR JANUARY 26, 2017.

 The annual gathering of the legal profession to speak with state legislators and explain why MLAC should receive an increase of $5 million of funding with which to represent low income residents of Massachusetts takes place on Thursday January 26 in the Great Hall of the state capital building.  Organized by the Mass Bar, the Boston Bar and the Equal Justice Coalition, the program begins at 11:00.

HOUSING COURT EXPANSION .

Last spring the Trial Court requested $1.2 million to inaugurate housing court expansion to the parts of the state that don’t now have  a housing court. Governor Baker and the state Senate supported the proposal  but. in the end, expansion didn’t pass.

The legislative process has begun again and the Trial Court has again requested $1.2 million to support expansion beginning  in FY2018, For further information, see www.HousingCourt4All.org.

 

 COMMISSION TO EXAMINE ACCESS QUESTIONS INVOLVING CRIMINAL LAW ISSUES THAT OVERLAP CIVIL LAW SITUATIONS.

 In its work to date ,the Commission has been concerned with civil law issues.  At its meeting December 1, 2016, the Commission explored access to justice issues that involve both civil and criminal law matters.  Some of these issues fall between the CPCS and legal aid stools. For example, how do we deal with situations that involve unpaid, court -ordered civil fees and fines which are collected through criminal proceedings and can result in incarceration. There are examples in some other states of integrated delivery systems (e.g., the Bronx Defenders) that seem to work better than ours. Would they provide better results for us? The Commission’s Executive Committee will follow-up this discussion.

 

COULD YOU LIVE ON $2/DAY?  FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS FOR COMMUNITY LAWYERING IN AMERICA TODAY.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 3. 10:00 am – 2:00 PM.

Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer pose probing and critical challenges in their “$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.”  Ms. Edin, a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Johns Hopkins,  will be in Boston to speak to community organizations and legal services staff  about how to address the toll that bad public policies have on poor families. The gathering has been developed by the Massachusetts Legal Services Community Lawyering Coalition with sponsorship for the event from Mass Law Reform and for the reception by GBLS.

The program will run from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. The place has not yet been announced. It is important that you RSVP to Feb3Event@mlri.org if you hope to attend.

 

 ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT ACCESS TO EFFECTIVE LEGAL ASSISTANCE.

 It was only 18 months ago that the Conference of Chief Justices set forth a goal of helping all self-represented litigants find effective legal assistance with their essential legal issues.] Since then, this possibility has become an important subject of research and experimentation. As reported in the last Commission Update, the Trial Court and the Commission have received a $100,000 grant with which to develop a strategic plan for taking steps toward the 100% access goal.  A consultant is being sought to work on the grant. Once a plan has been developed, the Trial Court and the Commission will be eligible to apply for a second grant to help with implementation.

 

“ROLES BEYOND LAWYERS” FINDS  “NAVIGATORS” HELPFUL

 The ABA, Public Welfare Foundation and National Center for State Courts issued a final report recently that focused on court “navigators”.  Navigators are trained to provide information about the legal process and substantive law to self-represented litigants. They do not represent the litigants or speak for them in court (unless asked by the e judge). Despite these limitations, the report found that navigators are nonlawyers who “influence the experiences of unrepresented litigants in positive ways.” The level and type of impact depended on their training and supervision. This is the first study of its kind. For the full study and Executive Summary see http://www.americanbarfoundation.org/research/summary/29 .  Richard Zorza’s review of the report is at https://accesstojustice.net/2016/12/14/the-first-roles-beyond-lawyers-full-evaluation-report-moves-us-to-a-whole-new-stage-of-expanding-the-use-of-nonlawyers/

 

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