Access to Justice Commission releases first report

DES MOINES — A commission charged by the Iowa Supreme Court to identify and remove barriers to justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans has released its first recommendations. The vice chair of the Access to Justice Commission, Anjie Shutts, says barriers to justice can be a lot of things.

She says it ranges from access to transportation, to language barriers. “We also really saw a huge barrier for folks who make too much money to qualify for legal aid — but don’t make enough money to hire a private lawyer,” Shutts says.

One recommendation is to get more lawyers involved in helping. “First we have a corporate work group that really is looking at how we can engage corporate in-house counsel to provide low-bono or pro-bono services to those folks who need them,” Shutts explains.

Shutts says there are lawyers who want to contribute, but they may not have the expertise required in high demand areas like family law. “Maybe that’s not their area of practice, but they are willing to take a case or two ever year to assist in that. How can we more effectively train those folks and provide them tools to help other people?,” she says.

The commission also looked at ways to help lawyers deal with rules that may prevent them from donating their time. “Because of their role with the corporation, maybe they are not licensed in the state of Iowa to practice. But are there some ways we can assist them….to help them gain that licensing?,” Shutts says.

The commission also looked at some specific issues involving veterans and made suggestions about them as well. “The report and the recommendations go to Chief Justice Cady and the rest of the Supreme Court. Our hope is that they adopt a lot or all of our recommendations,” Shutts says.

Shutts admits it seems like a large task to tackle, but she feels they have made a good start. “The commission just came together last year, this is our first year of it,” Shutts says, “and I felt like we had to start somewhere. And I feel like we put a really good foot forward.”

You can see the full report on the Iowa Judicial Branch website.

 

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