Category: Access to Justice

Bringing Legal Resources to Legal Deserts

Legal deserts are regions in the United States that have no or few attorneys. These regions are generally rural communities. In recent years, the legal community has analyzed the characteristics and consequences of legal deserts, and their impact on access to justice. For example, in 2018, a Harvard Law & Policy Review article surveyed parts of California, Georgia, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maine, and South Dakota, called for increased data collection about legal deserts, and recommended creative approaches to provide legal resources to residents in those communities. The study found common challenges across these diverse states with regard to addressing legal deserts. These challenges were exacerbated by the

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A Holistic Approach to Second Chances

When imagining a courtroom, one word that comes to mind is intimidating. Even as an observer, I can feel my body stiffen when walking into a court. The security guards seem to watch like hawks, the judge presides above you, the attorneys appear cold and stern, and the courtroom itself feels sterile and detached. This reality can leave those participating in and observing court feeling isolated and nervous.

These preconceived notions about what a courtroom is like are anything but true when it comes to the District of Minnesota’s Reentry Court program. Twice a month the courtroom reconfigures itself into a warm, inviting, and supportive environment where formerly incarcerated individuals join a team of prosecutors, federal defenders, mentors, probation officers, and a judge to try and lessen the likelihood of returning to prison.

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Voting for Racial Justice: How Pro Bono and Voting Rights Align

Voting is one of the most valued rights in America today, and as the Supreme Court noted more than a century ago, it is “preservative of all rights.” However, the battle for enfranchisement has been anything but straightforward. When America was founded, the right to vote was determined by the states and largely the exclusive province of white, property-owning men over the age of 21. It wasn’t until 1856 that all white men were given the right to vote, and it took another 14 years for men of color to gain the right to vote by law. However, laws are no better than their implementation, and our history is rich with examples of prejudicial barriers designed to keep eligible voters of color from the polls (e.g. poll taxes, literacy tests, and impersonation/intimidation) for generations after the U.S. Constitution was amended to proscribe racial discrimination at the state level regarding voting rights. Women didn’t gain the right to vote nationwide until 1920, followed by Native Americans, who were granted citizenship (and therefore the right to vote) with the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, and finally Asian Americans in 1952.

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Advancing Right to Counsel in Housing

Housing is a fundamental human right, yet the United States does not guarantee a right to counsel for individuals fighting to protect the roof over their heads. This means low-income tenants face a high risk of unfavorable outcomes in housing court, including wrongful evictions, simply because they are ill-equipped to defend themselves in eviction proceedings. In several jurisdictions, advocates are organizing to improve the status quo by securing a right to counsel in housing eviction cases. These efforts present unique opportunities for pro bono lawyers. New York. In New York City, there are 230,000 eviction cases or other proceedings brought against

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Legal Assistance for the Opioid Crisis

Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain, ranging from prescription opioids such as oxycodone and morphine, to illegal opioids such as heroin. In the 1990s, healthcare providers began prescribing opioid pain relievers at increased rates, leading to the widespread misuse of prescription and non-prescription opioids. This resulted in a spike in addiction, amounting to 350,000 deaths between 1999 and 2016 from an overdose involving opioids. In 2017, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary declared a public health emergency to address this epidemic. Because of the alarming number of overdoses, efforts to mitigate the epidemic tend

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Hundreds of CLOs and Managing Partners Show Support for Funding LSC

Yesterday, 251 Chief Legal Officers and General Counsel from across the country joined a letter in support of an increase in funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the U.S. The letter was part of a nationwide campaign to secure LSC funding for FY2019. A similar letter was submitted last week by more than 180 managing partners from law firms across the nation. In each of the past two years, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued proposed spending bills that sought to defund LSC. Last year’s proposal resulted in a similarly robust response from the legal community.

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