Massachusetts Awarded Grant to Improve Access to Justice
BOSTON, MA -- Massachusetts has been awarded a $100,000 grant to develop a strategic action plan for improving access to justice throughout the Commonwealth. The grant will assist the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, the Massachusetts courts, legal aid providers, bar associations, law schools, social service organizations, litigants, community groups, and other stakeholders in collaborating to assess the resources currently available to assist Massachusetts residents who cannot afford a lawyer for their essential legal needs -- such as matters involving housing, consumer debt, and family law -- and to develop a statewide plan for addressing gaps in those services.
“So many Massachusetts residents cannot afford a lawyer and must wrestle with complex legal issues involving their families, their housing, and their finances without adequate guidance and support,” said Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine Hines, Co-Chair of the Access to Justice Commission. “This collaborative strategic planning process will help us identify the gaps in services and design programs and processes to address residents' unmet legal needs.”
The grant is being provided through the Justice for All project, which is generously supported by the Public Welfare Foundation and housed at the National Center for State Courts. The Justice for All project was established to implement a 2015 resolution by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators endorsing the aspirational goal of providing 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs.
"Massachusetts has a rich and vibrant network of organizations and individuals who are committed to improving access to justice for everyone in the Commonwealth,” said Sue Finegan, Co-Chair of the Access to Justice Commission and a Partner at Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. "We look forward to working together to strengthen that network and mending the holes in the legal services safety net.”
Massachusetts is one of seven states to receive a Justice for All grant, selected from a pool of 25 applicants. The state will be eligible to apply for additional funding next year to begin implementation of its strategic action plan.
Recently, the National Center for Access to Justice released its 2016 Justice Index, measuring how all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico undertake to ensure justice for all. Massachusetts ranked second in the nation, behind the District of Columbia. Massachusetts ranked eighth when the first Justice Index came out in 2014. Massachusetts ranks second in services for people without lawyers, third in language access services, and sixth nationwide in services for people with disabilities, and is second in the nation overall in the Justice Index.