August 24, 2007 - Legal Services Solutions for the Vulnerable
August 24, 2007
For immediate release
Connie Talmage, Access to Justice Commission chair, (303) 894-6363
Kath Schoen, Colorado Bar Association, (303) 824-5305
Legal Services Solutions for the Vulnerable
Access to Justice Commission coming to a town near you
COLORADO — Statewide hearings will be held to determine the civil legal needs of low-income people in Colorado. The meetings will help identify the gaps of legal services and evaluate the specific needs of individual communities. The Colorado Access to Justice Commission and local Access to Justice Committees will be conducting the hearings September through November, and will include legal services clients and service providers, as well as members of the legal community.
“Colorado is substantially below the national average in funding for legal services for poor people,” said Fred Baumann, Access to Justice Resource Committee chair. “We would need another $2.5 million just to bring our state up to average. That’s a serious problem.”
The legal issues confronting Colorado’s poor most often include the basic human needs of shelter, sustenance, safety, health care and child custody. Their cases deal with protection orders, domestic violence, medical benefits, social security, SSI, food stamps and more.
“Although we help a large number of low-income individuals and families facing legal problems, there are many more whom we cannot help despite their critical legal needs,” said Jon Asher, Colorado Legal Services director. “From women and children who have been abused, to homeless individuals, to families facing eviction or foreclosure, those needing medical care for themselves or their families, veterans and other disabled citizens — we must do more to help meet the legal challenges facing those who can’t help themselves.”
Nationally, less than 20 percent of the poor’s legal needs are addressed with a private attorney (pro bono or paid) or a legal-aid lawyer, according to a Legal Services Corporation report. There are 6,861 eligible low-income people for every legal-aid lawyer in the nation. In the general population, there is one attorney for every 525 people — more than 10 times the ratio of legal-aid attorneys to the population they serve.
Access to Justice Commission members include appointees by the governor, the Colorado Supreme Court, the president of the Senate, the speaker of the House and the Colorado Bar Association. Local Access to Justice Committee members are judges, lawyers, service providers and others interested in eliminating the barriers in the legal system for low-income individuals.
The mission of the Access to Justice Commission is to develop, coordinate and implement policy initiatives to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for persons who encounter barriers in gaining access to Colorado's civil justice system. Additional information about the Commission is available at www.ColoradoJustice.org.