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The Maryland Access to Justice Commission is pleased to share the release of a new ABA Report entitled Access to Justice Commissions: Increasing Effectiveness Through Adequate Staffing and Funding. The comprehensive ABA Report offers a roadmap for states working to improve access to justice. 

Of note, the Report states the following:

“Some of the most significant advances in access to justice in our country have resulted from the innovative and sustained efforts of state access to justice commissions,” ABA President Bob Carlson said. “The American Bar Association is extremely proud of its longstanding support for the access to justice commission model, especially through the work of SCLAID and its Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives. We are pleased to continue to focus attention on the need and work of these commissions through this new report.”

A 2016 study by the federal Legal Services Corporation showed that 86 percent — or nearly nine out of 10 — civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans during the prior year received inadequate or no legal help. In 1991, the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives began collecting and cataloging numerous state studies documenting these types of unmet legal needs, generating interest nationwide to create and improve state access to justice commissions.

Among other goals, commissions work to remove barriers to civil justice by increasing civil legal aid funding, improving the delivery of pro bono legal services, simplifying court processes and forms for self-represented litigants, expanding language access resources, addressing implicit cultural bias and developing court-based self-help centers.

The new Report emphasizes that none of these objectives are attainable without the commission having a strong, stable infrastructure and that investing in professional staff plays a key role in the effectiveness of a commission.

Other key findings in the report include:

  • Broad, active stakeholder involvement increases the impact of access to justice commissions.
  • The influence of the Conference of Chief Justices, as well as individual chief justices, in expanding access to justice commissions around the country cannot be overstated.
  • The support of the legal aid community is extremely valuable for successful commissions.
  • Fundraising is critical, with approximately one-third of commissions involved with fundraising for operational expenses or special projects, and establishing broad coalitions help ensure the success of special projects.

For more information, visit the Maryland Access to Justice Commission website.