The Maryland Access to Justice Commission has issued its 2010 Annual Report. The report outlines the work of the commission over the last year. The mission of the Access to Justice Commission is to give “… meaningful voice to the public whose interest it serves…” and to …”develop, consolidate, coordinate and/or implement initiatives designed to, and enhance the quality of civil justice for persons who encounter barriers in gaining access to Maryland’s civil justice system.” The activities, projects and programs described in the 2010 Annual Report are evidence of this mission.
Highlights of the report include the information gained from a series of “Listening Events” held across the state so that stakeholder organizations, their clients and the public could voice their concerns and experiences with Maryland courts. Through the work of various committees the commission was able to adopt a definition of “access to justice” and investigate and advocate for the access and delivery of legal services in areas such as the funding of legal service organizations. A report, Implementing a Civil Right to Justice, was published by the Commission. The needs of the self-represented were addressed in the assistance in the creation of the District Court Self Help Center and the promotion of limited scope representation, or unbundling, by drafting rules and forms that have been presented to the Rules Committee of the Court of Appeals. The public education committee developed a series of posters that can be ordered without charge at the Access to Justice website and viewed in the Appendix of the Annual Report. Other issues studied were language barriers and how the needs of those who do not speak English might be met. Most recently the Commission created a number of awards that would promote access to justice activities.
I have mentioned just some examples of the work of the Commission illustrated in the Annual Report. I recommend that anyone with an interest in the equitable provision of legal services read the entire report and the appendices to find a wealth of information on access to justice in Maryland.