Access to Justice Commission works to clear path to legal services

Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 1:42am

Pushing on with its efforts to reduce barriers that can keep people from gaining access to legal needs, a newly formed state commission will meet on Friday to develop strategies and solutions for breaking through those barriers.

The Tennessee’s Access to Justice Commission, established in December by the state’s Supreme Court, will be holding only its second official meeting, but plans to discuss strategies for extending the reach and scope of legal services provided to the public.

In response to statewide polls, Tennessee’s high court approved the formation of a commission to help meet state's legal needs crisis with Rule 50 (passed in December 2008 and adopted on April 2 of this year), which established the TAJC.

“The crisis in unmet civil legal needs is becoming more dire everyday, particularly as economic conditions remain uncertain.” said Janice Holder, the state’s Chief Justice, and a strong advocate of the program. In remarks made in April, she publicly stated that “it is the mission of the TAJC to address this crisis.”

Despite its cause, the commission has no independent authority — it can only suggest and encourage, but commissioners are unfazed.

“Most importantly…in order to reduce barriers to access to justice, the Commission will develop and recommend initiatives and systemic change,” said Margaret Behm, TAJC chair and Nashville lawyer.

The first organizational meeting was held on April 29. There, the commission organized eight advisory committees, each chaired by a TAJC member. On Friday, committee chairs will discuss their findings.

The meeting is slated for 10 a.m. at the Administrative Office of the Courts, 511 Union Street, downtown.