Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tennessee high court announcing legal help for poor

By Clay Carey • THE TENNESSEAN • June 22, 2010

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s chief justice will unveil today the high court’s plan to make legal aid more available to state residents.

“The current economic climate has created a crisis in the need for civil legal services that can be expected to increase as our indigent and working poor face legal problems caused by events such as unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures,” Chief Justice Janice M. Holder wrote in a report on the state of the judiciary earlier this year.

Others face language or disability barriers.

In December 2008, the state Supreme Court formally announced the Access to Justice Initiative. Four months later, it created an Access to Justice Commission to form a plan to remedy a lack of access to legal help.

The panel of judges, attorneys and others in the court system suggested several fixes in a strategic plan submitted to the Tennessee Supreme Court this spring. At an event today, the court will announce which parts of the plan it will adopt.

The commission’s recommendations include:

• New policies that require courts to pay for interpreters.

• An online system that would let people in rural areas where legal help is scarce talk with attorneys in bigger cities.

• The creation of a “pro bono network” that would match needy clients up with attorneys willing to help them at a reduced rate

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