About MJF: Committed to Fairness.
We believe that access to justice is a basic human right, one that should be extended to all people. We provide funding to programs around the state that help those most in need of legal aid—the most needy of Maine residents. Because fairness matters...
In 1983, leaders of the Maine State Bar Association and the University of Maine School of Law, with wisdom and foresight, created the Maine Bar Foundation, which is today’s Maine Justice Foundation. They recognized that low-income Mainers involved in civil matters like disputes with landlords or serious child custody issues could not afford legal representation. The complexity of legal proceedings had tipped the scale in favor of those who could afford to hire a lawyer.
In 2015, we became the Maine Justice Foundation. Our goals remain consistent: we are committed to helping those desperate for civil legal aid in Maine.
The Maine Justice Foundation funds civil legal aid in Maine so that everyone has access to the justice system. We make grants to civil legal aid programs throughout Maine and the more than 19,000 clients they serve each year. These include, but are not limited to, the following: The University of Maine School of Law Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic; Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project; Legal Services for the Elderly; Maine Equal Justice Partners; Pine Tree Legal Assistance; and Volunteer Lawyers Project. The Foundation supports other law-related program initiatives, education and services.
Civil cases can be complex and are often life-changing. On any given day, in every pocket of Maine, low-income people are facing civil issues including the following:
- Unlawful evictions and landlord tenant disputes
- Denial of government benefits or health insurance
- Home foreclosures
- Divorce and child custody cases
- Unfair employment and wage claims
Without assistance, Maine residents needing legal help would be forced to navigate the legal system on their own, often putting their families, homes and livelihoods in jeopardy. Imagine these scenarios:
- Your landlord refuses to make changes to meet fire safety codes
- Your ex-wants to change your child custody agreement and you disagree
These are matters of civil law. These are arguably common problems involving everyday concerns. Imagine though that you cannot afford a lawyer to help you navigate the complex legal system. And unlike criminal cases, Maine’s judicial system doesn’t offer free legal assistance to those who cannot afford a lawyer. Without help, those so-called “common problems” can take on a life of their own. They can affect your job, your children, your home and your own well-being.
With a strong delivery system and enough funding to meet growing needs, civil legal aid has far-reaching impacts that affect taxpayers, businesses and health care providers. Civil legal aid helps:
- A family stay in their home
- Keep children from being taken away from a parent
- A deserving individual stay employed
- An elderly person retain much-needed health care
- Businesses and investors with foreclosure prevention
- Families secure health insurance coverage or Medicaid
- Control and resolve community-housing issues