Access to Justice Committee

Mission Statement

National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, 2014
Every year, millions of low-income people throughout the United States struggle through serious, complex civil legal disputes without the help of a lawyer. Most low-income households find that private counsel is unaffordable and free legal aid is unavailable due to the high demand and legal aid programs' limited time and resources. More than 45 million individuals have incomes low enough to qualify for federally funded legal aid, but equal access to justice is often hard to find. A national coalition is fighting for this civil right to counsel. Go to the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel website at http://civilrighttocounsel.org/.

Civil Justice Coalition’s Report to the State Senate Judiciary Committee Generates Positive Publicity in 2014

Report Finds Unrepresented Poor in Civil Matters 'Adversely Impacts' Justice for All, May 6, 2014
A report by the Pennsylvania Civil Legal Justice Coalition has concluded that the high number of unrepresented low-income litigants in civil legal matters “adversely impacts the quality of justice for all parties in Pennsylvania courts, negatively impacts the courts’ administration of justice and undermines the rule of law.” The report, released at a meeting of the state Senate Judiciary Committee, recommends creation of an Access to Justice Commission to serve as a vehicle for studying and implementing measures to expand access to justice in the state. Read the news release from the coalition. Get the report.

PBA Board Endorses Access to Justice Commission, January 2014
Meeting during the 2014 Midyear Meeting, the PBA Board of Governors unanimously approved the resolution supporting the establishment of a Pennsylvania Access to Justice Commission. The resolution next goes to the PBA House of Delegates for review and final approval in May 2014. Read the resolution and background material.

Allegheny County Bar Association Resolution in Support of a Pennsylvania Access to Justice Commission, Jan. 7, 2014

Philadelphia Bar Association Resolution in Support of a Pennsylvania Access to Justice Commission, Dec. 19, 2013

2013 Access to Justice Hearings

"Mind the Gap: Taking Steps to Bridge the Gap in Access to Civil Legal Services," by Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr., Pennsylvania Lawyer Magazine, Nov./Dec. 2013

AOPC Report on Self-Represented Litigants, Aug. 26, 2013

PBA and Other Resolutions and Recommendation on Access to Justice

LSC, White House Co-Host Forum on Increasing Access to Justice, April 16, 2013

Access to Justice: Discussing the Right to Counsel in Civil Cases, Feb. 8, 2013

Article Draws Connection between Gideon and Civil Right to Counsel
The article "Gideon and Civil Right to Counsel: Two Sides" by John Pollock appeared in the National Legal Aid & Defender Association's NLADA Cornerstone magazine issue of January-March 2013. Read the article, linked here by the author's permission. Read the op-ed in the Nov. 29, 2012, New York Times by Matthew Desmond titled "Tipping the Scales in Housing Court."

Marking the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, March 2013
Read the "Side Bar" column by PBA President Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr. titled "Ensuring Access to Justice When It Really Counts" from The Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine of March/April 2013.
    Listen to the podcast of the program titled "The justice gap - the challenge of providing legal services for poor people" and broadcast on WHYY Radio in March 2013, the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the 1963 U.S. Supreme court ruling that poor people charged with a felony are entitled to government-financed legal representation.
     Read the March 2013 paper "Harmonizing Current Threats: Using the Outcry for Legal Education Reforms to Take Another Look at Civil Gideon and What it Means to be an American Lawyer," by Cathryn Miller-Wilson, part of the Villanova Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper Series.
     Go to the American Bar Association website for the Celebrating the Promise of Gideon page for a video documentary, the original petition for the case, case facts, oral arguments and decision, articles and other resources on Gideon v. Wainwright.

'Sunday Dialogue': Public Service for Lawyers, June 2, 2012
Readers offer opinions on a 50-hour pro bono requirement in New York State in The New York Times "Sunday Dialogue" of letters.

Management Information Exchange Journal Article on Access to Justice, Summer 2012 Issue
Read the article titled "Where We've Been, Where We're Going: A Look at the Status of the Civil Right to Counsel, and Current Efforts," by John Pollock, coordinator, National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.

In May 1, 2012, speech New York Chief Judge Announces Pro Bono Requirement for Bar Admission
In his Law Day 2012 speech, New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced the requirement that lawyers must show that they have performed at least 50 hours of law-related pro bono service as a requirement for admission to the New York State bar. "We turn over a new page in the bar admission process in New York by requiring each and every applicant for admission to contribute 50 hours of participation in law-related and uncompensated pro bono service before they can practice in New York State," said Lippman. Click here for the text of Lippman's speech, as published in the New York Law Journal. Click here for a related article in The New York Times.

Ordinance Declares San Francisco to be a 'Right to Civil Counsel City,' March 16, 2012

Hawaii Amends Rules 6.1 and 6.5, effective Jan. 1, 2012
The Hawaii Supreme Court has adopted amendments to Rule 6.1 and Rule 6.5 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, effective Jan. 1, 2012. Attached is a PDF with details. Amended Rule 6.1 allows $500 to be paid to the Hawaii Justice Foundation or to other qualifying entities (as defined in the amendment), at the choice of the attorney making the donation, in lieu of meeting the voluntary pro bono hours. The amendment does not provide a formal enforcement mechanism for verifying whether in fact the attorney has made the payment. It is of course possible to include in future mandatory yearly bar renewal applications the reporting of the payment. Hawaii currently has mandatory reporting of pro bono hours, but it is voluntary whether the attorney does pro bono work. The pro bono system remains a voluntary system under the amended form, but state pro bono folks believe that the amended Rule 6.1 will add additional funds to the total funding "mix" for legal service providers.

New York Immigrant Representation Study Preliminary Findings, May 2011
The New York Immigrant Representation Study, a two-year project of the Katzmann Immigrant Representation Study Group and the Vera Institute of Justice, seeks to ascertain and document the representational needs of indigent New Yorkers facing removal proceedings. Click here for the preliminary findings of the study.

American Bar Foundation Releases First Report of the Civil Justice Infrastructure Mapping Project
The study maps out state-by-state the scope of civil legal services available to assist the U.S. public in accessing civil justice. It includes information about who is eligible for free civil legal information, advice or representation; how civil legal services are delivered, funded and coordinated; and how both no-fee and fee generating limited scope civil legal services are regulated. The Executive Summary is available at www.americanbarfoundation.org/uploads/cms/documents/access_across_america_executive_summary.pdf. The study is available at www.americanbarfoundation.org/uploads/cms/documents/access_across_america_first_report_of_the_civil_justice_infrastructure_mapping_project.pdf.

"The Civil Right to Counsel: Addressing the Scope, Answering the Tough Questions and Looking to the Future"
This full-day conference in Washington, D.C., is to be held Dec. 7, 2011, one day before the 2011 NLADA Conference. Click here for the program announcement.

State Legislative Committee Issues Positive Audit of Legal Services Delivery and Recommends More Stable Funding, May 2011
The State Legislative Budget and Finance Committee recently issued its audit of legal services funding authorized by Pennsylvania's Access to Justice Act (AJA). Documenting a well-run legal services delivery system, the audit recommends that "The General Assembly … consider making the AJA fee and surcharge permanent to provide a more stable funding stream for civil legal aid." Click here for the audit report, and click here for highlights. Click here for reaction to the report in a May 26 AOPC press release. Click here for Pennsylvania IOLTA Board Executive Director Al Azen's report to PBA legal services committees on the Access to Justice Act Performance Audit, May 26, 2011.

Chief Justice Castille Urges Cooperation on Court Funding in 2011-12 State Budget
Click here for the March 28, 2011, press release, as posted on the website of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Click here for the related report, "State of the Commonwealth's Courts 2011."

Committee Update, Dec. 1, 2010

Philadelphia Bar Association’s Civil Gideon Corner, 2010

ABA Civil Gideon Model Act and Basic Principles Reports, August 2010

Kagan Discusses Access to Justice During Senate Judiciary Committee Confirmation Hearing, June 29, 2010

New York’s Chief Judge Calls for a New Guarantee of Legal Representation for the Poor in Civil Cases
New York Times Article: ‘Top New York Judge Urges Greater Legal Rights for the Poor,’ May 3, 2010
Jonathan Lippman, New York’s chief judge, has called for a new guarantee of legal representation for the poor in civil cases. Read the article.

Philadelphia Chancellor's Forum on Civil Gideon, July 7, 2010

PLAN's Milkes Writes on Legal Services in May/June 2010 Issue of PBA Magazine
Sam Milkes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network and a past contributor to the PBA’s Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine, appears as an author and co-author of articles in the May/June 2010 issue. The articles, linked here in PDF, are titled "The Changing Profile of Civil Legal Aid" and "A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases, Too?," with the latter co-authored by Andrew F. Susko, a former PBA president, and Rhodia D. Thomas, executive director of MidPenn Legal Services.

Public Libraries and Self-Representation Conference, 2010, Pa. Dept. of Education Weekly Report of Jan. 13, 2010

Philadelphia Bar Association Civil Gideon Task Force 2009 Preliminary Report, Findings and Recommendations and Appendices, Nov. 9, 2009

Gideon’s New Trumpet: Expanding the Civil Right to Counsel in Massachusetts, September 2008
Gideon’s New Trumpet: Detailed Description Memo
Gideon’s New Trumpet: Appendices

The ABA Delivery Committee on Access to Justice's 2009 Annual Report
The ABA Delivery Committee on Access to Justice's 2009 Annual Report, titled Agenda for Access, is a compilation of articles, reports, trainings and projects from the last calendar year. It summarizes the work of the committee while including efforts from others who are working to increase access to justice for those of moderate income. Click here for the report.

LSC Releases Updated 'Report on the Justice Gap in America' Indicating That Legal Aid Programs Turn Away One Person for Every Client Served
In a report released Sept. 30, 2009, the Legal Services Corp. (LSC) finds that nearly a million poor people who seek help for civil legal problems will be turned away this year by the nation's largest nonprofit legal aid network due to insufficient resources. Click here for the news release, which contains a direct link to the report. Click here for a letter from 108 U.S. House members to House and Senate chairs urging an increase in LSC funding.

‘Pro Bono: A Case for Judicial Intervention’ In April 2009 PBA Quarterly
Philadelphia Judge Anne Lazarus writes on how the judiciary can help bridge the “justice gap” in America in the April 2009 issue of the PBA Quarterly. Click here (requires PBA member login) to read the article.

Philadelphia Bar Association Board Approves 'Civil Gideon' Resolution, April 30, 2009
The Philadelphia Bar Association Board of Governors has approved a resolution calling for provision of legal counsel for indigent persons in civil matters involving basic human needs. Read the resolution.

"(Penny) wise justice for California," Los Angeles Times Editorial, Sept. 25, 2009

"A Key Legal Right at Risk," by former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, Washington Post, March 10, 2009

California Right to Counsel Pilot Legislation Introduced, Feb. 25, 2009

American Bar Association Section of Litigation Symposium Addresses Civil Right to Counsel, Dec. 4-5, 2008

Tennessee High Court Calls On Attorneys to Step Up In Effort to Ease Burdens On Legal Aid System, December 2008

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Editorial of Nov. 24, 2008: "Has Gideon's time arrived … again?"

"Suits, Legislation Over a Civil Right to Counsel Grow Across U.S.," National Law Journal Article, Sept. 19, 2008

Boston Bar Releases Plan to Expand Right to Counsel in Civil Cases, Sept. 2, 2008

Alaska Bar Association Pro Bono Committee Resolution in Support of Recognizing a Right to Counsel for Indigent Individuals in Certain Civil Cases, September 2008

June 2008 Final Report of the PBA Limited Representation Working Group and Letter of June 6, 2008, Relaying the Report to Chief Justice Castille

"Advocacy for a Civil Right to Counsel: An Update," by Paul Marvy, Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, March-April 2008

Bob Racunas, executive director of Pittsburgh-based Neighborhood Legal Services Association, on the "Need for Equal Justice," Pitt Law Magazine, Spring 2008 (posted with permission from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law)

Access to Justice: Opening the Courthouse Door (A Brennan Center Report)

Chapter 14 (Donald Marritz Article)

Civil Right to Counsel (Brennan Center Overview)

Civil Right to Counsel Resolution Presented to the PBA House of Delegates, Nov. 30, 2007 (By Michael Greco)

Model Legislation Developed by California Commission

Reform in Delivery of Civil Legal Aid (comment, Jim Loewer)

Resolution to Cosponsor Report/Recommendations of the ABA Task Force on Access to Justice in Civil Cases

Right to Counsel in Civil Cases (Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, July-August 2006)

State Statutes Providing Right to Counsel as of 2006

Civil Legal Representation Project: Executive Summary, June 2003

Civil Legal Representation Project: Final Evaluation Report, June 2003