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Justice for All Summit prioritizes access-to-justice solutions

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

DENVER – A group of more than 110 people representing many segments of Colorado’s legal community have reviewed and prioritized more than 60 recommendations to help improve the state’s capacity to ensure everybody has equal access to the courts.

The recommendations considered during an October meeting at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center in Denver will be incorporated into a strategic plan to be implemented in 2018.

The meeting was the culmination of a year-long effort to identify ways to fill gaps and improve coordination among access-to-justice service providers. Colorado was one of seven states to receive a $100,000 planning grant from the National Center for State Courts in its Justice for All project supported by the Public Welfare Foundation.

“Colorado was one of the first states to form an Access to Justice Commission, and I am gratified to see that hard work acknowledged and advanced by this grant,” said Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy E. Rice, who kicked off the event with opening remarks in the Supreme Court courtroom. “Equal access to justice through the courts is an important goal in our system, and these recommendations will go a long way toward achieving that goal.”

Summit attendees considered more than 60 recommendations from several working groups, including:

  • Establishing a statewide access-to-justice coordinator to facilitate sharing of information by service providers and reduce duplication of effort;
  • Implementing plans to attract lawyers to rural areas;
  • Improving training for judges and other court personnel regarding how to help unrepresented litigants;
  • Promoting limited scope representation for litigants; 
  • Increasing procedural uniformity among judicial districts;
  • Leveraging technology to permit online document assembly by unrepresented litigants; 
  • Promoting use of plain language in forms and instructions;
  • Expanding clinical opportunities at the law schools; and
  • Increasing funding for Colorado Legal Services.

The Justice for All summit brought together judges, court staff, legal aid and private lawyers, representatives of both Colorado law schools, the Colorado Bar Association and various social service organizations.

The work is part of an effort to implement a resolution approved by the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators which envisions state justice systems in which everyone has access to effective assistance for their essential civil legal needs.

According to the state’s grant application, Colorado’s long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive system to respond to the needs of people with civil legal needs who cannot afford a lawyer by offering a range of services to provide them with meaningful and appropriate assistance. The Justice for All summit had two principal goals: to reach consensus on ways to expand and strengthen the continuum of services and to find ways to foster continued communication and coordination.

The Justice for All planning committee was co-chaired by Colorado Access to Justice Commission Chairman Fred Baumann, Colorado Bar Association President Dick Gast and Colorado Supreme Court Justice William W. Hood III. 

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