Grant to ABA will support Access to Justice panels

An American Bar Association project has been selected to administer a $270,000 grant to support state panels that promote access to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged people.

According to the ABA, the 18-month grant to the ABA Resource Center for Accss to Justice Initiatives comes from the Public Welfare Foundation.

More than half of the funds, the ABA says, will go to mini-grants to help create new access to justice commissions and expand the scope and activities of existing commissions.

The resource center lists 27 states with access to justice commissions, whose members are leaders of the state’s courts, organized bar and other stakeholder groups, according to the ABA.

Most commissions were created by the state’s supreme court, and several high courts are considering creating one.

The grant will also fund travel fellowships for supreme court justices and other judges who lead access to justice commissions to attend annual ABA meetings of state access to justice chairs.

In recent years, court funding shortfalls have kept many judicial leaders from traveling to the meetings.

ABA officials say the grant will also enable the ABA to offer regular telephone conferences on current issues for commission leaders and staff, develop new resource materials on best practices and innovations, and provide training for commission staff. State access to justice commissions have increased awareness among legislators and other key policymakers, the bar, the judiciary and the general public about the legal needs of low-income and disadvantaged people and the social and economic benefits of ensuring that they do not go unmet, according to the ABA. 

Those initiatives, the organization said, have helped expand support for self-represented litigants in the courts, increase state-level funding for civil legal aid, and develop initiatives to
increase pro bono services by lawyers.

A companion grant to the National Center for State Courts, the ABA said, will help strengthen the role of state judges and courts in improving access to legal services for low-income people through court-based innovations, the development of an access to justice center for the court community and related activities.

The ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives is a project of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants.