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TCL > April 2008 Issue > 2007 ATJ Commission Report

April 2008       Vol. 37, No. 4       Page  57
Departments
Access to Justice

2007 ATJ Commission Report
by Constance C. Talmage

About the Author

Constance C. Talmage, Denver, is the Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyers Committee and 2007 Chair of the Access to Justice Commission.

The Colorado Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission was formed in 2003 with the support of the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association (CBA), and the Statewide Legal Services Group. The mission of the ATJ 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."1 This report highlights efforts undertaken in 2007 by the ATJ Commission and its committees to carry out that mission.2

Statewide Hearings on Access to Justice

During 2007, the ATJ Commission, in cooperation with local ATJ committees, held ten hearings throughout the state to assess the civil legal needs of the indigent in Colorado. Hearings were held in Delta, Durango, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Ft. Collins, Greeley, Breckenridge, Boulder, and Denver. In addition to members of the ATJ Commission and local ATJ committees, panelists who participated in the hearings included members of the Colorado Legislature, representatives of other elected officials, Colorado Supreme Court justices, Colorado Court of Appeals judges, district and county court judges, and CBA leaders. Testimony was provided by legal services clients, low-income individuals with legal needs who did not receive legal assistance, attorneys who provide civil legal services to the poor, judges, and employees of organizations that serve the indigent.

As a result of these hearings, the ATJ Commission concluded that Colorado faces a serious crisis in civil legal representation of the indigent. Many Coloradans who need legal assistance to secure or maintain health care, housing, custody, or other necessities do not receive help because there are too few lawyers at Colorado Legal Services (CLS), Colorado’s statewide legal aid program. Among the most significant findings from these hearings are:

> Low-income individuals do not automatically have access to free legal assistance in civil matters, as they do in virtually all serious criminal matters in Colorado.

> Most civil legal assistance for the indigent in Colorado is provided by CLS. During the last twenty years, the number of CLS lawyers has been cut in half, while the number of poor people has increased by almost 75 percent. In 1980, there was one legal services attorney for every 4,839 eligible clients. Today, there is one CLS attorney for every 16,890 eligible individuals. As a result, most low-income individuals in Colorado are unable to get civil legal assistance when they need it. It is estimated that only one indigent person in five who needs civil legal help will receive some legal assistance.

> Colorado’s only state funding for civil legal services is a $500,000 appropriation to provide civil legal services to victims of family violence. The amount of this funding has not increased since July 1, 2002. Colorado ranks fortieth in state funding for civil legal services for the indigent, and would need to provide another $1.82 million in state funding to reach the national average.

A full report on the findings from the hearings was published in January 2008 and began distribution in March.3 A more complete description of the hearings appears in the article "Building A Bridge to Justice in Colorado," by Inga Causey, which appears on page 49 of this issue of The Colorado Lawyer, and which includes authority for the above statistics.

Supreme Court Pro Bono Initiative Committee

The Supreme Court Pro Bono Initiative Committee is charged with increasing participation of law firms and solo practitioners in the Colorado Supreme Court’s pro bono commitment and recognition program. In 2006, the Court implemented a two-part program to recognize law firms and solo practitioners.

Part one of the program recognizes those firms that commit to:

1) the Colorado Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 annual goal of fifty hours of pro bono legal services by each Colorado-licensed attorney in the firm, primarily for indigent persons and/or organizations serving indigent persons; and

2) valuing at least fifty hours of such pro bono services per year for all purposes of attorney evaluation, advancement, and compensation in the firm as the firm values compensated client representation.

By the end of 2006, forty-two firms and solo practitioners had indicated to the Supreme Court their agreement with these commitments.

The second part of the Supreme Court recognition program honors those law firms and solo practitioners whose Colorado-licensed attorneys on average during the previous year performed fifty hours of pro bono legal services primarily for indigent persons and/or organizations serving indigent persons. During 2007, the Colorado Supreme Court for the first time honored law firms that met this goal. On March 16, 2007, Chief Justice Mullarkey presented certificates of recognition to thirty-four firms and solo practitioners at a reception at the Colorado Supreme Court. Congratulations and thank you to all firms participating in this recognition program.

The Supreme Court Pro Bono Initiative Committee was expanded during 2007 and engaged in a significant outreach effort to increase the number of participating law firms. Fifty-two firms and solo practitioners are now participating in the pro bono commitment portion of the program.

Second Season of Service Committee

The Second Season of Service Committee (SSSC) is charged with encouraging retired or inactive attorneys to provide legal services to the indigent. On July 1, 2007, the Colorado Supreme Court adopted new Rule 223, Pro Bono/Emeritus Attorney. This rule creates a pro bono/emeritus attorney licensing status and permits retired or inactive attorneys to provide pro bono services through recognized providers of legal services to the indigent, without maintaining an active license and paying the annual license fee.

The SSSC undertook significant efforts to publicize the new rule4 and encourage retired or inactive attorneys to participate in pro bono legal services. ATJ Commissioners and Hon. JoAnn Vogt and Hon. Dan Taubman of the Colorado Court of Appeals presented information about the rule to the Judicial Conference in September. John Gleason, Director of Attorney Regulation, agreed to insert information about the rule in attorney registration packets sent to 36,000 Colorado lawyers. ATJ Commissioner and Denver attorney Ilene Bloom made a presentation about the rule to the CBA Board of Governors at its November meeting.

Courts Committee

The Courts 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. To advance these ends, the Courts Committee continues to work with the State Court Administrator’s Office on projects such as:

> negotiating waivers of e-filing fees for lawyers who provide representation to indigent clients

> improving signage to make courthouses more accessible to persons who cannot read English

> ensuring the availability of interpreters for hearing-impaired or non-English-speaking litigants in civil cases

> ensuring that forms for pro se parties are available in both English and Spanish.

The Courts Committee and members of the CBA staff also surveyed statewide services to pro se litigants. A report was presented to the Colorado Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on Family Issues.

This committee continues to explore what improvements might be made in the courts to expand access the civil justice system by pro se litigants. During 2007, the Colorado Supreme Court adopted new Rule 6.5 of the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, which became effective January 1, 2008. This rule permits lawyers who participate in legal clinics to engage in limited representation of clients during the clinic, without conducting a complete conflict check, unless they have actual knowledge of a conflict. This rule will greatly expand the assistance that can be provided by volunteer lawyers at legal clinics.

Resource Development Committee

The Resource Development Committee (RDC) has embarked on an ambitious multi-year program to increase private and public funding for civil legal services for low-income Coloradans. The RDC’s primary focus has been on increasing the level of state funding for civil legal services. At present, the only state funding for civil legal services is a $500,000 appropriation to provide legal services to victims of family violence; the amount of this appropriation has not increased since July 1, 2002. Colorado ranks fortieth in state funding for civil legal services for the indigent.

Representatives of the RDC actively participated in the public hearings. They testified about legal services funding to inform legislators and other public officials of unmet needs in this state and of potential ways to address those needs.

Public Information Committee

The Public Information Committee (PIC) focuses on creating programming to educate the public, the Bar, client groups, and corporate and political leaders regarding the importance of access to justice, availability of legal services, and pro bono programs. It works closely with the University of Denver (DU) and University of Colorado (CU) law schools to increase student awareness of public service opportunities and commitment to public interest legal work. Again this year, the PIC arranged for BarBri scholarships5 to be awarded to one DU and one CU third-year law student who intend to practice public interest law. To help ensure that the commitment is not forgotten after graduation from law school, the PIC provides materials about opportunities for pro bono and public interest work to new admittees to the Colorado Bar.

To further its goal of educating the general public about access to justice issues, the PIC participated actively in the statewide hearings and worked with CBA staffers to:

1) assure that information about the Supreme Court’s Pro Bono initiative was included in packets that are distributed at the CBA President’s visits around the state;

2) create new access to justice brochures for legal professionals and for the general public; and

3) make the ATJ Commission website a more useful resource for persons interested in providing pro bono legal services.

Local ATJ Support Committee

The Local ATJ Support Committee is responsible for establishing and supporting local ATJ committees around the state. There currently are twelve active local committees, and efforts are under way to establish local committees in five additional judicial districts. The committee’s focus this year has been on supporting and encouraging local committee projects, which range from production of DVDs and pamphlets for pro se litigants to efforts to place pro bono cases with local bar members to public access television programs on access to justice topics. Several local committees have creatively enlisted participation of district attorneys, local service providers, and victim advocates. The model charter was revised this year to reflect the breadth of backgrounds of committee members. The local committees were instrumental in planning the statewide ATJ Commission hearings; they assisted with identifying witnesses and arranging panelists, media coverage, and logistics.

Other Special Developments

> The Colorado ATJ Commission and the CBA were honored to host the ABA’s annual Equal Justice Conference in Denver in March 2007. Approximately 1,000 legal community members assembled at the conference to discuss equal justice issues as they relate to the delivery of legal services to the poor and low-income individuals in need of legal assistance. Governor Bill Ritter welcomed the participants to Colorado and Chief Justice Mullarkey welcomed attendees at the ATJ Commission Chairs meeting on the final day of the conference.

More than forty individuals from Colorado who are active in access to justice matters attended the event. Judge Taubman, an ATJ Commissioner, participated in two panels, and the CBA sponsored a Dessert and Dance party for all conference participants.

> The ATJ Commission submitted a letter of support for a CLS grant application to develop and distribute live and archived Webcast content to clients and advocates throughout Colorado.

> Judge Taubman wrote the article, "Expanding Colorado’s Right to Counsel in Civil Cases—A Modest Proposal," which was printed in The Colorado Lawyer in July.6

> The term of Commissioner David Butler ended on December 31, 2007. Dave was the ATJ Commission’s first chair and was a significant force behind the creation and success of the Commission. Thank you, Dave, for your tremendous contributions to legal services in Colorado.

Conclusion

The ATJ Commission continues to be proud of what has been accomplished, but recognizes the significant work that lies ahead. The Commission thanks the CBA and the other entities and individuals who have supported it during the past year, and welcomes anyone who would like to support its efforts to sign up for one of its committees. Information about the ATJ Commission and its committees can be found online at www.coloradojustice.org.

Notes

1. Colorado Access to Justice (ATJ) Commission, Bylaws, Article I, available at www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/3218/DPWAJ/Commission-Bylaws.

2. See the Appendix to this report, which includes: (1) the 2007 ATJ officers and commissioners, and their appointing entities; (2) the pro bono coordinators; (3) how to obtain information about local bar programs; and (4) the list of local ATJ committees. For the most current list of ATJ officers, commissioners, and appointing entities, visit www.coloradojustice.org.

3. The Colorado ATJ Commission’s 2008 Report, "The Justice Crisis in Colorado—A Report on the Civil Legal Needs of the Indigent in Colorado," is available at www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/20267/DPWAJ/Colorado-Statewide-Hearings-Report.

4. See Vogt, "New Rule Allows Retired and Inactive Lawyers to Provide Pro Bono Legal Services," 36 The Colorado Lawyer 75 (Sept. 2007).

5. For information about the BarBri scholarship program, visit www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/3237/dpwaj/Information-for-Law-Students.

6. Taubman, "Expanding Colorado’s Right to Counsel in Civil Cases—A Modest Proposal," 36 The Colorado Lawyer 95 (July 2007).

_________________________________________________

Appendix to 2007 ATJ Report

2007 Access to Justice Officers, Commissioners, and Appointing Entities
For a complete list of the 2007 Access to Justice Officers, Commissioners, and Appointing Entities,
go to the Commission’s website, www.coloradojustice.org.

Constance C. Talmage, Chair
Colorado Bar Association

Frederick J. Baumann, Vice-Chair
Legal Aid Foundation

David Butler, Secretary
Colorado Bar Association

William D. Alexander
Colorado Bar Association

Angela R. Arkin
Colorado Supreme Court

Jonathan D. Asher
Colorado Legal Services

Ilene Bloom
Colorado Bar Association

Ryan Call
Colorado Governor’s Office

Inga Causey
Colorado Bar Association

Mary Ann Corey
Colorado Bar Association

Karen H. DuWaldt
Colorado Bar Association

Gregory J. Hobbs
Colorado Supreme Court

Barney Iuppa
Colorado Supreme Court

Simon Mole
Colorado Bar Association

James J. Peters
Colorado House of Representatives

Diana M. Poole
Colorado Lawyers Trust
Account Foundation

Janet Price
Colorado Bar Association

Daniel M. Taubman
Colorado Bar Association

JoAnn L. Vogt
Colorado Supreme Court

John S. Zakhem
Colorado Senate

Pro Bono Coordinators

Hon. William D. Alexander
City of Pueblo Municipal Court

Maggie Atkinson
NE Colorado Legal Services

Jeanna Baitlon
Heart of the Rockies CLS

Brenda J. Bellonger
North American Indian 
Legal Services Inc.

Patty Bennett
Uncompahgre Volunteer
Legal Aid

Dwight D. Brummet
Ball Easley Wabeke
Brummet & Johnson

Mary Ann Corey
El Paso County Pro Bono Project

Patricia Craig
NW Colorado Legal Services Project (Frisco)

Larry Daves
La Junta CLS

Karen Detmers
Pro Bono Project of Mesa County

Sherri Ferree
NW Colorado Legal Services

Cindi Hendrix
Larimer County Bar Pro Bono Program

Theresa Kilgore
Colorado Springs CLS

Erica Martinez
Boulder County Legal Services

Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Delta County Bar Pro Bono Program

Kyla Norcross
SW Bar Volunteer Legal Aid
 Inc.

Jonathan Shamis
Alpine Legal Services

Candace Sparks
NW Colorado Legal Services Project, Gunnison Office

Myrna Reese-Stevens
Weld County Legal Services

Dianne Van Voorhees
Metro Volunteer Lawyers

Barbara Williams
NW Colorado Legal Services, Leadville Office

Heather Zadina
Murane & Bostwick

 Local Bar Programs

 For a listing of Local Bar Programs, please refer to the Colorado Legal Services Directory at:
www.coloradolegalservices.org/CO/StateDirectory.cfm.



Local Access to Justice Committees

First Judicial District
John Livingston

Second Judicial District
Ilene Bloom

Fourth Judicial District
Steve Flynn

Fifth Judicial District
Inga Causey and Beth Pond

Sixth Judicial District
Lynne Sholler

Seventh Judicial District
Aaron Clay

Eighth Judicial District
Jennifer Rice

Ninth Judicial District
Jonathan Shamis

Tenth Judicial District
Bill Alexander

Sixteenth Judicial District
Michael Schiferl

Nineteenth Judicial District
Betty Strobel

Twentieth Judicial District
Christine Hylbert


© 2008 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=2008.


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