"100% Access to Justice" Initiative launched, includes civil right to counsel

08/10/2016, Court Rule or Initiative, All Basic Human Needs

A powerful resolution by the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) in 2015 called for "100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs."  In order to help states effectuate this goal, the "Justice for All Initiative" was launched, which will be providing technical assistance to states looking to tackle the 100% access goal.

In August, the Justice for All Initiative released its Guidance Materials related to new projects.  The guidance materials discuss a variety of different approaches (self help, courtroom assistance, alternative dispute resolution, etc), one of which is increasing access to full representation.  On that front, the materials state that

Even with the most efficient triage and self-help systems in place, there will be many people who need full-scale representation in order to navigate the legal system and resolve their problems. This may be the case where a legal issue is particularly complex, where the stakes are particularly high (such as where a person is at risk of becoming homeless), or where mental health, age, or other capacity issues impede the person’s ability to fend for himself or herself.

The document then acknowledges that even if triage is used to send those not in need of full representation to other services, the remaining people actually in need of full rep will likely outnumber the available full rep services.  Therefore, "planning should include some education, outreach and advocacy strategies to secure additional public and private funding to expand full-representation legal aid and pro bono services”, and states should “consider …  launching 'civil Gideon' programs for people facing certain critical civil issues."