Late Breaking Access to Justice News – January 18, 2017

BOSTON MAYOR PROPOSES RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN  EVICTIONS.

Nearly a decade after a task force produced “Gideon’s New Trumpet” calling for a right to counsel in eviction cases, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has taken the idea to heart and proposed a right to counsel as part of a package of legislation he will submit to the legislature  next week.  The Mayor announced on Friday that he was proposing a package of measures to improve tenants’ ability to retain possession of affordable housing units. The details of the bills are yet to be made available, but the Committee for Public Counsel Services would apparently be the provider of counsel.

CONSULTANT HIRED FOR “JUSTICE FOR ALL” GRANT.

Marc Lauritsen has been hired by the joint management team of the Trial Court and the Commission, to serve as the consultant on the $100,000 Justice for All Grant announced  late last year.  Marc is the President of Capstone Practice Systems,  a consulting firm that specializes in  Information Technology.  He has already begun working on the grant.

  

CONNECTICUT LEGISLATIVE TASK FORCE PROPOSES RIGHT TO COUNSEL IN DEFENCE OF RESIDENTIAL EVICTIONS, RESTRAINING ORDERS AND CHILD CUTODY AND DETAINED REMOVAL (DEPORTATIO)  CASES

Early last year the Connecticut legislature created a legislative task force “To Improve Access to Legal Counsel in Civil Matters.”  The 36- member Task Force  included a wide variety of stakeholders in the justice system. It was directed to report  by December 15.

The Task Force  Report presents compelling information about the needs of low income Connecticut residents and the frequent failure of the courts to render justice fairly because so many litigants are without legal help. 

Fifteen specific recommendations are offered for legislative enactment, ranging from establishing a statutory right to counsel for restraining orders, defense of residential evictions and child custody and  removal matters.

A copy of the report can be found at https://www.cga.ct.gov/jud/tfs/20160729_Task%20Force%20to%20Improve%20Access%20to%20Legal%20Counsel%20in%20Civil%20Matters/Final%20Report.pdf

TRIAL COURT REPORT ON FILES AND FEES PROPOSES LEGISLATIVE ACTION

In March 2016, the Department of Justice  issued a “Dear Colleague” letter to Massachusetts   concerning court enforcement of fines and fees. The letter included seven policy recommendations. In June, Chief Judge Paula M. Carey established the Fines and Fees Working Group to review the letter and recommendations in light of current Massachusetts practice. During the fall the SJC amended SJC Rule 3:10 on Assignment of  Counsel.

On November 17 the Working Group reported to  Chief Justice Carey. o    http://www.mass.gov/courts/docs/trial-court/report-of-the-fines-and-fees-working-group.pdf. The Working Group recommended five legislative recommendations in addition to the seven included in the DOJ letter:

  • Create a single indigence standard
  • Create a Single Probation Fee with ?Flexible Payment Options
  • Eliminate Post-Release Probation fees
  • Amend statutes to clarify judicial discretion to waive fees or fines, and
  • Revise or Replace G.L.c. 127, Sec. 144 to allow inflation adjustments to the daily “work off” 

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