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TCL > February 2006 Issue > Access to Justice Commission: 2005 Report

The Colorado Lawyer
February 2006
Vol. 35, No. 2 [Page  59]

© 2006 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.

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Articles
Access to Justice

Access to Justice Commission: 2005 Report
by JoAnn Vogt

The Access to Justice column provides information about poverty law and other areas of the law as they relate to low-income clients; reports on the Access to Justice Commission and local and national Access to Justice Committees; and testimonials from lawyers about their pro bono experience. Readers interested in contributing an article on legal services, pro bono, and Access to Justice topics should contact Kathleen Schoen at kschoen@cobar.org.


The Colorado Access to Justice Commission is an independent entity that was formed in 2003 with the support of the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association, and the Statewide Legal Services Group. 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.

JoAnn Vogt, Denver, is a judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals and Chair of the Access to Justice Commission.

 

The Colorado Access to Justice Commission was formed in 2003 with the support of the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association, and Statewide Legal Services Group.1 The mission of the 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."2

In the three years since its creation, the Commission has undertaken various initiatives intended to address the problems facing low income persons and others who encounter barriers to accessing our state’s civil justice system. It also has supported and encouraged the efforts of other individuals and entities in Colorado who are working to overcome those barriers. The needs and problems that led to the formation of the Commission remain.3 However, several successful initiatives were undertaken by the Commission’s committees during the past year to address those problems. This report will highlight a few of these initiatives.

Courthouse Committee

The Commission’s Courthouse Committee is charged with proposing improvements to state court rules and policies that will assist pro se litigants and lawyers who provide pro bono services for indigent clients. This year, the committee has focused on two specific projects to advance these ends.

First, the committee drafted proposed amendments to Chief Justice Directive 98-01, regarding costs for indigent persons in civil matters. The proposals were adopted and an amended CJD was issued by Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Mullarkey in November 2005. The amended CJD, which is available at www.court.state.co.us/supct/directives/supctdirectives.htm, establishes a streamlined procedure for determining indigency and handling cost waiver requests based on indigency. The procedure benefits both the courts and the persons requesting such waivers.

Second, as part of its efforts to encourage lawyers to provide legal services for those unable to pay for them, the Courthouse Committee has drafted a model pro bono policy for law firms. Prepared with input from several law firms, the model policy is intended to assist firms in accomplishing the aspirational goal set forth in Colo. RPC 6.1—namely, that each attorney provide fifty hours of pro bono legal services per year, primarily for indigent persons or organizations serving indigent persons. Firms that adopt the policy also commit to valuing such pro bono service as they would value compensated client representation. The Colorado Supreme Court soon will begin recognizing firms that certify they have accomplished the goals outlined in the policy. The policy is available from the ATJ Commission on the CBA website.4

In addition to these projects, the Courthouse Committee is exploring other ways to remove barriers faced by persons who find themselves in the court system. These efforts include working with the State Court Administrator’s Office to provide interpreters for non-English-speaking litigants and to seek waivers of electronic-filing fees for indigent clients and for attorneys doing pro bono work for such clients.

Education Committee

The Commission’s Education Committee focuses on creating programming to educate the public, the Bar, client groups, and corporate and political leaders regarding the importance of access to justice and the availability of legal services and pro bono programs. In 2005, Education Committee projects included securing a commitment from the Office of Regulation Counsel to disseminate information to new lawyers, as part of their required professionalism course, regarding C.R.C.P. 260.85 and opportunities for pro bono work. The committee also arranged for a presentation to state legislators, as part of the CBA’s "Legislative Day" in October, to help acquaint legislators with the mission and projects of the Commission.

The Education Committee continues to explore ways to increase in-house counsel’s awareness of opportunities for pro bono service. Additionally, as part of its ongoing cooperation with the University of Colorado and the University of Denver law schools to increase student awareness of public service opportunities, the committee obtained a commitment from Colorado Bar Refresher, Inc. to donate tuition for bar review courses to students who have demonstrated a commitment to public interest legal work. The committee also is looking into starting a "Justice Corps" project, similar to one presently in effect in California, in which college students are trained to help pro se litigants with such basic tasks as filling out forms.

Local Access to Justice Support Committee

The Local Access to Justice Support Committee, formerly called the Pro Bono Committee, was charged with establishing and supporting local access to justice committees in each judicial district in Colorado. The committee has been meeting with local bar associations and judges to carry out that charge. Local ATJ committees are currently established in twelve of Colorado’s twenty-two judicial districts. Contacts have been made in three more locations, and the committee plans to contact attorneys and judges in three other districts in 2006. The committee also has made a commitment to establish a library of "self-help" videotapes for distribution to all areas of the state.

The local ATJ committees that have been set up through this committee’s efforts are engaged in a variety of projects to assist pro se litigants and others facing difficulties in accessing the courts in their own districts.6 For example, one local ATJ committee has facilitated the placement of a kiosk in its courthouse to help pro se litigants complete and print pleadings in certain types of civil cases.7 The Local ATJ Support Committee is organizing a spring conference that will bring together local ATJ committee members from around Colorado to share ideas and learn more about successful initiatives they can undertake in their own districts.8

Resource Development Committee

The Commission’s Resource Development Committee explores and evaluates initiatives to increase both private and public funding for legal services to low income persons. A primary focus of the Resource Development Committee has been to educate state legislators about the need for services for victims of domestic violence and others adversely affected by cuts in federal funding for providers of legal services to indigent civil litigants.

In 2005, the ATJ Commission was fortunate to receive a generous donation from the law firm of Doyle, Zakhem, Suhre, & Lilly, LLC. The proceeds from the firm’s annual golf tournament will be used to help fund the spring conference for local ATJ committees, discussed above. In addition, again in 2005 as in previous years, the Commission received the support of the CBA in hosting meetings, providing staff assistance, and including information about the Commission and its projects on the CBA website.9

The Commission thanks the CBA and the other entities and individuals who have supported it during 2005. Although we are proud of what has been accomplished, much work remains. We welcome anyone who would like to support the Commission’s efforts to sign up for one of our committees. A list of pro bono coordinators, local bar programs, and local ATJ committees, as well as complete information about the Commission and its committees is printed at the end of this report and also can be found on the Access to Justice pages on the CBA website.10

NOTES

1. The current commissioners, and their appointing entities, are: William D. Alexander, Colorado Bar Association ("CBA"); Angela R. Arkin, Colorado Supreme Court ("Colo. S.Ct."); Jonathan D. Asher, Colorado Legal Services; Darla Benford, CBA; Ilene Bloom, CBA; David Butler, Secretary, CBA; Ryan Call, Office of Colorado Governor; Aaron R. Clay, CBA; Pamela A. Gagel, Vice-Chair, CBA; Gregory J. Hobbs, Colo. S.Ct.; Barney Iuppa, Colo. S.Ct.; Meredith McBurney, Legal Aid Foundation; James J. Peters, Colorado House of Representatives; Elizabeth M. Steele, Colorado Trust Account Foundation; Constance C. Talmage, CBA; Daniel M. Taubman, CBA; JoAnn L. Vogt, Chair, Colo. S.Ct.; and John S. Zakhem, Colorado Senate.

2. Colorado Access to Justice Commission, Bylaws, Article I, available at http://www.cobar.org/ group/index.cfm?EntityID=dpwaj.

3. See Butler, "2004 Report of the Colorado Access to Justice Commission," available at http://www.cobar.org/group/index.cfm?EntityID=dpwaj (click on "Report to Appointing Bodies re: 2003"); see also Clay, Taubman, and Vogt, "Access to Justice Commission: 2004 Report," 34 The Colorado Lawyer 42 (Jan. 2005).

4. See http://www.cobar.org/group/index.cfm?EntityID=dpwaj. See also the Colorado Supreme Court website at http://www.courts.state.co.us/supct/rules/2005/rule6_1addedcomment2.pdf.

5. See Vogt, "New Rule Authorizes CLE Credit for Pro Bono Representation," 34 The Colorado Lawyer 25 (Feb. 2005).

6. For a report on some of the "success stories" from the local ATJ committees, see Clay, Taubman, and Vogt, "Access to Justice Commission: 2004 Report," supra, note 3.

7. The kiosk is one of three developed through the I-CAN! Colorado Project, a joint effort by Colorado Legal Services, the Colorado state courts, CBA, Legal Aid Society of Orange County, California, and Lexis/Nexis.® Kiosks are available in the courthouses of Adams, Boulder, and Weld Counties.

8. For information, contact Kate Arganese at karganese@cobar.org or (303) 824-5333.

9. See http://www.cobar.org/group/index.cfm?EntityID=dpwaj.

10. Id.

___________________________

Pro Bono Coordinators

Hon. William D. Alexander
City of Pueblo Municipal Court
(719) 553-2467

Mr. Rudy Alvarado
Garfield Legal Services

Ms. Maggie Atkinson
NE Colorado Legal Services
(970) 522-6391

Ms. Brenda J. Bellonger
North American Indian
Legal Services Inc.
(720) 840-5438

Ms. Patty Bennett
Uncompahgre Legal Aid
(970) 249-7202

Mrs. Becky S. Brelsford
Larimer and Loveland Legal Aid
(970) 484-5858

Ms. Josephine Cano
Weld County Legal Services
(970) 351-7300

Ms. Mary A. Corey
Colorado Legal Services
(719) 471-0380

Sue Corning
San Luis Valley Pro Bono
(719) 589-5532

Ms. Patricia J. Craig
NWCLS
(970) 668-9612

Ms. Karen Detmers
Pro Bono Project of Mesa County
(970) 243-7940

Patt Emmett
CRLS Inc.
(970) 385-7378

Ms. Sherri Ferree
NWCLS
(970) 276-2161

Mr. Thomas A. Nelson, Jr.
(970) 252-8491

Ms. Sue Parenteau
Boulder County Legal Services
(303) 449-7575

Jonathan Keith Shamis
Alpine Legal Services
(970) 945-9333

Candace Sparks
NWCLS–Gunnison Office
(970) 641-3023

Ms. Debora L. Wagner
Metro Volunteer Lawyers
(303) 830-8210

Ms. Barbara Williams
NWCLS–Leadville Office
(719) 486-3238

___________________________

Local Bar Programs

Alpine Legal Services
Phone: (970) 945-8858
www.alpinelegalservices.com
Counties served: Garfield, Pitkin

Boulder County Legal Services
Phone: (303) 449-7575
Counties served: Boulder
Delta Free Legal Services
Phone: (970) 240-8697
Counties served: Delta

El Paso County Bar Pro Bono at Colorado Legal Services
Phone: (719) 471-0380
Counties served: Chaffee, Custer,
El Paso, Fremont, Park, Teller

Heart of The Rockies Bar
Association Pro Bono Program
Phone: (719) 539-7003
Counties served: Chaffee

Mesa County Pro Bono Project, Inc.
Phone: (970) 243-7940
Counties served: Mesa

Metro Volunteer Lawyers
Phone: (303) 837-1313 in-take
Counties served: Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas, Elbert, Jefferson

Northeast CO Legal Services
A Branch of Colorado Legal Services
Phone: (970) 522-6391
Counties served: Kit Carson, Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Yuma

Northwest CO Legal Services
A Branch of Colorado Legal Services
Phone: (970) 668-9612 or (800) 521-6968
Counties served: Clear Creek, Pitkin, Summit

Northwest CO Legal Services
A Branch of Colorado Legal Services
Phone: (970) 641-3023 or (800) 521-6968
Counties served: Gunnison

Northwest CO Legal Services
A Branch of Colorado Legal Services
Phone: (970) 276-2161 or (800) 521-6968
Counties served: Grand, Jackson, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt

Northwest CO Legal Services
A Branch of Colorado Legal Services
Phone: (719) 486-3238 or (800) 521-6968
Counties served: Eagle, Lake

San Luis Valley Bar Association
Pro Bono Project
Phone: (719) 589-5532
Counties served: Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande, Saguache

Southwest Bar Volunteer Legal Aid
Phone: (970) 247-0266 or (888) 298-8483
Counties served: Archuleta,  La Plata, San Juan

Uncompahgre Volunteer Legal Aid
Phone: (970) 249-7202
Counties served: Delta, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, San Miguel

Weld County Legal Services
Phone: (970) 351-7300, ext. 4514
Counties served: Weld

___________________________

Local Access to Justice Committees

1st, 2nd, 17th, 18th JDs
Contact: Debora Wagner
Adams-Broomfield, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas-Elbert, Jefferson
(303) 830-8210

4th JD
Contact: JoAnn M. Schmitz
Colorado Springs, El Paso
(719) 439-2934

6th JD
Contact: Lynne Sholler
Durango, La Plata, Pagosa Springs
(970) 375-7756

7th JD
Contact: Sandra Miller
Delta, Gunnison, Montrose
(970) 874-6280

8th JD
Contact: Jennifer Rice
Larimer
(970) 494-1700

10th JD
Contact: William Alexander
Pueblo
(719) 553-2467

20th JD
Contact: Sue Parenteau
Pro Bono Coordinator
Boulder
(303) 449-7575

© 2006 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=2006.


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