While bar associations, law schools, international aid organizations, and others have played a significant role in addressing and raising awareness of access to justice issues, courts in recent years have taken matters into their own hands. For example, in the last several years, a number of state court systems across the US have created special access to justice commissions. See examples from Wyoming (established in 2008), Maryland (established in 2008), and Tennessee (established in 2009). The commissions take different forms, but in general they are composed of representatives from law firms and law schools, community groups, and corporations who develop policies and programs for the courts around issues such as language and cultural barriers and access issues for self represented litigants. Pro bono has been a prominent topic in the work of these commissions. Indeed, the Tennessee Supreme Court has plans for a statewide pro bono summit next year to discuss pro bono issues, preview available technology, and seek input on the development of a statewide pro bono referral system. We can stay tuned for other state court systems to follow.
IBA Pro bono and Access to Justice Committee