How can we ensure effective assistance for everyone with an essential civil legal need?
Massachusetts was awarded a grant to develop a strategic action plan for improving access to justice throughout the Commonwealth. The Access to Justice Commission, the courts, legal aid providers, bar associations, law schools, social service organizations, litigants, community groups, and other stakeholders are collaborating in this effort. We will assess the resources currently available to assist residents who cannot afford a lawyer for their essential legal needs – such as those involving housing, consumer debt, and family law – and develop a statewide plan for addressing gaps in those services.
In order to accomplish these goals most efficiently and effectively, we seek input from the public and have created a survey toward that end. Please complete the survey here. Your input is greatly appreciated.
The grant is being provided through the Justice for All project, which is generously supported by the Public Welfare Foundation and housed at the National Center for State Courts. The Justice for All project was established to implement a 2015 resolution by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, which endorsed the goal of providing 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs. Twenty five states applied for grants, and Massachusetts is one of seven that received them.
The project is being managed by the following team:
- Honorable Ralph D. Gants, Chief Justice, Supreme Judicial Court
- Honorable Geraldine S. Hines, Supreme Judicial Court, Co-Chair, Access to Justice Commission
- Susan M. Finegan, Esq., Co-Chair, Access to Justice Commission; Chair, Pro Bono Committee, Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, PC
- Jacquelynne J. Bowman, Esq., Executive Director, Greater Boston Legal Services
- Russell Engler, Esq., Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs, New England Law, Boston
- Honorable Dina E. Fein, Special Advisor for Access to Justice Initiatives
- Chip Phinney, Esq., Deputy Legal Counsel, Supreme Judicial Court
- Marilyn Wellington, Executive Director, Board of Bar Examiners
Marc Lauritsen of Capstone Practice Systems, a Massachusetts lawyer and educator, has been engaged to facilitate the project.
The project will conclude in December 2017. An implementation effort will likely ensue in 2018.
We are planning several regional meetings to gather input from the public and from those who provide services and other forms of assistance to people with essential legal needs. Our first event, in Springfield, will be on the afternoon of Friday, April 28th. It will begin with a general open session, and continue with breakouts to discuss issues in the contexts of housing and family law.
A statewide event will be held at Harvard Law School on June 9th.
Further details will be provided here as they become available.
For more information