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TCL > April 2009 Issue > 2008 ATJ Commission Report

April 2009       Vol. 38, No. 4       Page  79
Departments
Access to Justice Commission

2008 ATJ Commission Report
by Constance C. Talmage

 

About the Author

Constance C. Talmage, Denver, is the Executive Director of the Colorado Lawyers Committee and served as 2008 Chair of the Access to Justice Commission.

The Colorado Access to Justice Commission (ATJ Commission) was formed in 2003 with the support of the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Bar Association (CBA), and the Statewide Legal Services Planning 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 2008 by the ATJ Commission and its committees to carry out that mission.2

Statewide Hearings on Access to Justice

In March 2008, the ATJ Commission published a report (ATJ Report) on the ten hearings held during 2007 throughout the state to assess the civil legal needs of the indigent in Colorado.3 The ATJ Report concludes 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-plus years, the number of CLS lawyers has been cut in half, whereas 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.

As of 2007, 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 had 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.

Copies of the ATJ Report were distributed in March 2008 to the Colorado Supreme Court and the Colorado Court of Appeals, the Chief Judges in each of Colorado’s judicial districts, the Governor, all state legislators, the Colorado congressional delegation, leadership of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, Colorado’s specialty bar associations, the local ATJ Committees, members of the committees who organized the hearings, and other panelists and witnesses.

Increase in Funding for Civil Legal Services

Following the publication of the ATJ Report, the ATJ Commission worked with members of the Colorado judiciary and the Colorado Legislature. With strong support from the Colorado Judicial Branch, the Colorado Legislature increased the annual appropriation for legal services for victims of family violence from $500,000 to $750,000. This is a significant step forward for funding for legal services, and the Commission is grateful to the Colorado Supreme Court, the Colorado Legislature, and Governor Ritter for their support.

Colorado Supreme Court
Pro Bono Initiative Committee

The Colorado 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.

The first part 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 such hours of pro bono services for all purposes of attorney evaluation, advancement, and compensation in the firm as the firm values compensated client representation.

The second part of the program honors those solo practitioners and law firms 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 held a ceremony to recognize law firms and individuals who met this goal. On May 5, 2008, the Court again honored law firms that made the pro bono commitment, as well as those who met the annual goal. Chief Justice Mullarkey presented certificates of recognition to firms and solo practitioners at a reception at the Court. The number of firms that have joined the pledge portion of the Pro Bono Initiative increased from fifty-five in early 2007 to ninety-two in 2008. Of those firms, seventy-five fulfilled their pro bono pledge during 2007. The ATJ Commission congratulates and thanks all attorneys and firms that participate in this recognition 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, which 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.4

The SSSC, with significant assistance from Stanton Rosenbaum, undertook major efforts during 2008 to publicize the new rule5 and encourage retired or inactive attorneys to participate in pro bono legal services. John Gleason, Colorado Supreme Court Regulation Counsel, inserted information about the rule in the 2008 attorney registration packets that were sent to 36,000 Colorado lawyers. On July 28, 2008, the SSSC sponsored a job fair for more than thirty retired and inactive lawyers interested in volunteering to help meet the legal needs of low-income people. A number of organizations that use volunteer lawyers were represented. Among them were CLS, Metro Volunteer Lawyers, the Colorado Lawyers Committee, The Legal Center for Persons with Disabilities and Older People, the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, and the Rocky Mountain Children’s Legal Clinic.

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 a number of issues.

During 2008, Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey issued a modification to Chief Justice Directive 98-01 that provides for a waiver of e-filing fees for lawyers who represent indigent clients. This change is significant for lawyers who agree to represent indigent clients on a pro bono basis.

The committee is also creating a "Colorado Bench Book" for judges dealing with pro se litigants, and is working on a statewide assessment of the needs of self-represented litigants.

The committee spent considerable time reviewing the Colorado Court’s newly revised website, noting areas where the site could be more friendly to self-represented litigants. The ATJ Commission submitted a letter to the State Court Administrator’s Office offering assistance and suggestions as to how the website could be further revised to enhance access for self-represented litigants to appropriate legal forms, information, resources, and sources of legal assistance. Many of these revisions have been incorporated into the revised website. Once revisions to the website are complete, the Courts Committee plans to reach out to public librarians with a view of expanding the public’s use of the Court’s website and to work with Colorado Supreme Court librarians to establish a resource center for pro se litigants.

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.

The RDC was active in 2008 in working to obtain the increase in state funding for civil legal services from $500,000 to $750,000. In addition, the RDC monitored national fiscal developments, including an FDIC proposal to provide unlimited insurance to certain accounts. As originally drafted, the rule would have excluded interest-bearing checking accounts, such as COLTAF accounts. The ATJ Commission submitted a letter successfully urging the FDIC to include interest-bearing lawyer trust accounts in the rule.

Local ATJ Support Committee

The Local ATJ Support Committee is responsible for establishing and supporting local ATJ committees around the state. Presently, there are thirteen active local committees (a new committee was created during 2008 in Adams County), and efforts are underway to establish local committees in several additional judicial districts.

The Support Committee’s focus during 2008 was on supporting and encouraging local committee projects. The local committees continue to be wonderful laboratories of experimentation and creativity. New projects include the creation of the Justice Colorado Corps in Colorado Springs; a move in Fort Collins to use resources formerly devoted to the law library for a self-help center in the courthouse; the development in Durango of a computer lab at the public library to teach people how to access legal resources on-line; the formation of new criminal law advice clinics in Delta; and establishment of a new free consultation program in Greeley.

Public Information Committee

The Public Information Committee (PIC) focuses on educating lawyers, law students, and corporate and political leaders about the importance of access to justice and the availability of legal services and pro bono programs. The PIC 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. The ATJ Commission was delighted to learn about the new Public Service Pledge Program at CU Law School. Students are encouraged to perform fifty hours of public service before graduation. A similar program requiring students to complete fifty hours of public service was put in place several years ago at DU Sturm College of Law.

Other Special Developments

Chief Justice Broderick of the New Hampshire Supreme Court spoke at the Judicial Conference in Breckenridge in September regarding access to justice. In addition, Colorado Court of Appeals Judges Taubman and Vogt participated in two Judicial Conference sessions regarding handling pro se litigants using principles of neutral engagement. Both panels were well-attended by the judiciary. Members of the ATJ Commission met with Justice Broderick one evening during the Judicial Conference.

The ATJ Commission sent a letter to Justice Michael Bender, Chairman of the Supreme Court’s Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct Revision Committee (Revision Committee), supporting the adoption of Comment 4 to Rule 2.2 regarding a judge’s ethical duties in self-represented litigation cases. The Commission recommended permitting judges to make reasonable accommodations to assist pro se litigants without compromising their duty to be fair and impartial. Judge Taubman testified before the Revision Committee supporting these changes.

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

The term of ATJ Commissioner JoAnn Vogt ended on December 31, 2008. Judge Vogt was the Commission’s second Chair and a significant force behind the success of the Commission. The Commission thanks Judge Vogt for her tremendous contributions to legal services in Colorado.

Conclusion

The ATJ Commission looks forward to 2009 under the leadership of its new officers—Chair, Fred Baumann; Vice-Chair, Diana Poole; and Secretary, Ilene Bloom—and with the participation of new commissioners Hon. Gale Miller, appointed by Chief Justice Mullarkey; Bernadette Gonzales, appointed by Governor Ritter; and Cynthia Delaney and Hon. Betty Strobel, appointed by the CBA.

As in the past, the ATJ Commission is 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 participate in its efforts by signing up for one of its committees. Information about the ATJ Commission and its committees can be found at www.coloradojustice.org.  

Notes

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

2. See the Appendix to this report, which includes: (1) the 2008 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 http://www.coloradojustice.org/.

3. The 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. Chohan, "Inactive License? You Can Still Help!" 30 The Docket 7 (Sept. 2008).

Appendix

ATJ Commission
2008 Officers, Commissioners, and Appointing Entities

For a complete list of the ATJ Commission’s officers, commissioners,
and appointing entities, visit the Commission’s website
at
www.coloradojustice.org.

Constance C. Talmage, Chair
Colorado Bar Association

Frederick J. Baumann, Vice-Chair
Legal Aid Foundation

Diana M. Poole, Secretary
Colorado Lawyers Trust Account Foundation

Hon. William D. Alexander
Colorado Bar Association

Hon. Angela R. Arkin
Colorado Supreme Court

Jonathan D. Asher
Colorado Legal Services

Ilene Bloom
Colorado Bar Association

Inga Causey
Colorado Bar Association

Mary Ann Corey
Colorado Bar Association

Karen H. DuWaldt
Colorado Bar Association

Charles F. Garcia
Colorado Bar Association

Bernadette Gonzales
Colorado Governor’s Office

Hon. Gregory J. Hobbs
Colorado Supreme Court

Hon. Barney Iuppa
Colorado Supreme Court

Mag. Simon Mole
Colorado Bar Association

James J. Peters
Colorado House of Representatives

Janet Price
Colorado Bar Association

Mag. Elizabeth B. Strobel
Colorado Bar Association

Hon. Daniel M. Taubman
Colorado Court of Appeals

Hon. JoAnn L. Vogt
Colorado Supreme Court

John S. Zakhem
Colorado Senate

 

Pro Bono Coordinators

Jeanna Baitlon
Heart of the Rockies CLS

Patty Bennett
Uncompahgre Volunteer Legal Aid

Mary Ann Corey
El Paso County Pro Bono Project

Patricia Craig
NW CLS Project, Frisco

Larry Daves
La Junta CLS

Karen Detmers
Pro Bono Project of Mesa County

Sherri Ferree
NW CLS, Hayden

Cindi Hendrix
Larimer County Bar Pro Bono Program

Manuela Heredia
San Luis Valley Pro Bono Program

Theresa Kilgore
Colorado Springs CLS

Erica Martinez
Boulder CLS

Lea Ann Martinez
NW CLS, Leadville

Sara Nab
NE CLS

Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Delta County Bar Pro Bono Program

Kyla Norcross
SW Bar Volunteer Legal Aid, Inc.

Myrna Reese-Stevens
Weld County Legal Services

Gail A. Rodosevich
Pueblo County Pro Bono Project

Jonathan Shamis
Alpine Legal Services

Candace Sparks
NW CLS Project, Gunnison

Dianne Van Voorhees
Metro Volunteer Lawyers

 Local Bar Programs

For a listing of local bar programs, please refer to the Colorado Legal Services Directory at: www.cobar.org/index.cfm/ID/20246/DPWAC/List-of-Local-Bar-Associations.

 

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

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

Seventeenth Judicial District
Simon Mole

Nineteenth Judicial District
Betty Strobel

Twentieth Judicial District
Christine Hylbert

 

© 2009 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=2009.


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