May 12, 2018
Justice Mead attended the ABA National Meeting of State Access to Justice Commission Chairs on May 12, 2018. This meeting is the preeminent gathering of the access to justice community in the United States. It provides an extraordinary opportunity for the exchange of ideas and sharing of resources. Justice Mead served on a panel discussion regarding the funding of ATJ commissions; his presentation addressed the operation of an ATJ Commission with little or no funding.
A few observations from the meeting:
Several states have created “service centers” at court locations where unrepresented individuals can obtain information and connect with resources right at the courthouses. These service centers are staffed by members of clerks’ office, and often consist merely of a corner of a clerk’s window. It is reported that these service centers do not increase the workload on clerks—they already respond to inquiries, and the service center model merely institutionalizes what they already do.
Similarly, many states have created “call centers” where qualifying individuals can obtain legal advice over the phone, much like the “Free Legal Answers Maine” (FLAME) program operated by the Volunteer Lawyer Project.
Unbundled legal services (limited representation) continue be a significant resource for underserved populations nationwide, although it has not fully caught on with the private bar in Maine.