This initiative stems from a fairly recent Resolution on Meaningful Access to Justice for All from the Conference of State Court Administrators and the Conference of Chief Justices. At the heart of the Resolution is an aspirational goal of 100% access to effective legal assistance for essential civil legal needs through a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services. This means that ideally everyone who needs help with an essential civil legal issue (preventing homelessness, income stability, etc.) receives some kind of meaningful help. The continuum concept means that different individuals and situations would warrant different kinds of legal help, which could vary from full service representation through a civil legal aid program, to online advice or help from a self-help center in a courthouse, to a limited scope representation from a private attorney. It does not mean “Civil Gideon” or a blanket right to counsel for all cases.
The strategic planning grants will allow each state to engage in planning and coordination with relevant stakeholders to develop state assessments and action plans, in hopes of promoting collaboration and innovation to meet the essential civil legal needs across the state. After working through the planning grant, the next step will be applying for an implementation grant to bring a piece of the plan in to action. In Minnesota, the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, the Minnesota State Bar Association, and the Minnesota Judicial Branch submitted a joint application.
Speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Legal Services Coalition, Cathy Haukedahl, executive director of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid said, “This is an excellent opportunity for Minnesota to increase access to justice across the state and showcase nationally the many innovations we already have in place.”
The Public Welfare Foundation’s press release is available here.