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About the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Initiative
The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its access to justice campaign on December 5, 2008. The Court cited the urgent and tremendous legal needs gap in Tennessee, a gap that is only growing in the current economic situation as Tennessee's indigent and working poor families face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures. The Court hired, through the Administrative Office of the Courts, an Access to Justice Coordinator and made access to justice its number one strategic priority.
The 80 very dedicated legal aid attorneys in Tennessee are simply unable to assist the nearly million low-income Tennesseans who often face multiple legal problems of these types in a single year. The result is an urgent civil legal needs gap which the Court is trying to help address through its access to justice campaign. The Court is rallying support from the bar, the judiciary, and the public.
The Court held public meetings across the state in early 2009 on access to justice issues. The Court has implemented several rule changes to promote increased pro bono work such as amending Court Rule 8, Rule of Professional Conduct 6.1 to include an aspirational goal that each licensed lawyer provide 50 hours of free legal service each year. The Court sponsored a Pro Bono Summit on January 21, 2011, to expand existing pro bono efforts and recruit more lawyers to provide pro bono service. Participants were asked to come prepared to find ways to further these goals and lead such efforts in their community.
About the Access to Justice Commission:
On April 3, 2009, as part of its access to justice campaign, the Court created the Tennessee Access to Justice Commission under the auspices of the Court. The Tennessee Access to Justice Commission is a small but diverse and dedicated group who volunteer their time to help improve access to justice in Tennessee. The Commissioners are appointed by the Supreme Court to serve staggered terms of 1-3 years. The Commission is made up of 10 members from all three grand divisions of the state. Justice Janice Holder serves as the Court’s liaison to the Commission and has been very involved in the work of the Commission. Eight of the commission members are lawyers, one member is a minister and one member is an entrepreneur who is a former public servant and civil rights activist. Commission members reflected ethnic, gender and geographic diversity, and each member of the Commission has a strong background in public service initiatives.
Because of the small size of the Commission, it relies heavily on the work of its advisory committees. Currently there are seven advisory committees as follows: Disabilty & Language Barriers; Education & Public Awareness; Faith-Based Initiatives; Pro Bono; Pro Se & Forms; Resources; and Technology.
For additional information or if you are interested in helping with this initiative, please contact:
Anne-Louise Wirthlin, Esq.
Access to Justice Coordinator
Administrative Office of the Courts
Nashville City Center, Suite 600
511 Union Street
Nashville, TN 37219