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Access to Justice 2014
Transcript of Access to Justice 2014
Access to Justice in Phoenix
Management Academy, October 30, 2014
Access to Justice
Not just a poor person problem,
a Phoenician problem
No easy solutions
The law is complicated,
always will be
Roadmap to Excellence: Access to Legal Services
At least 385,908 Phoenicians are "very low income," earning less than 50% of the area median wage.
When these neighbors face a need for civil law legal services, they lose. They cannot afford to pay for a lawyer, cannot borrow to pay, and do not know how to get access to representation they can afford
The City’s recent
Roadmap to Excellence: Making the City of Phoenix a National Leader in Preventing and Addressing Domestic Violence
initiative has proven highly successful.
Although tools to facilitate legal self-help remedies have become increasingly available, many of the problems facing these residents are too complex for self-help. Additionally, these residents are faced with a bewildering array of courts and governmental agencies. Simply knowing where to turn is difficult.
Existing solutions are inadequate. The leading provider of civil legal services to the poor in Phoenix, Community Legal Services, is able to reach only 1% of the eligible population
Existing City programs
Similar to the way in which the City partnered with the Arizona Coalition to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence and others in the effort to address domestic violence, the City should partner with Community Legal Services, the State Bar Association, and others to address the lack of access to legal services
As noted above, the City “owns” many small pieces of the solution. Much of the problem, however, lies within the grasp of the private and non-profit sectors
Easy enough for lawyers and other professionals to find, not so much for our typical citizen in need
Law school costs too much
Consider that the cheapest legal education available in Arizona, the University of Arizona, costs $24,607 per year in tuition and fees for Arizona residents. Factor in the cost of books and supplies, and a law degree from the U of A, exclusive of living expenses, costs approximately $80,000. [ASU Law charges only slightly more, while Arizona Summit School of Law charges $42,756 per year in tuition and fees].
$26 to $43 thousand dollars for tuition alone
Given that most law students have already taken on student loan debt for their undergraduate studies, it is increasingly common that newly-minted, home-grown Arizona lawyers quickly face repayment on over $100,000 in educational loans
Paying off such debt can make it decidedly difficult for new lawyers to enter the field of public interest law, arguably the least lucrative field in law
Starting a career $100,000 in debt
Models for meaningful reform of legal education to reduce costs abound. None of them has been tried, largely because of the cost structures associated with traditional legal education. We believe the City could successfully facilitate access to civil law legal services over the long term. There will be significant front end costs associated with our proposal. We believe, however, that the economics favor full cost recovery within a few short years.
Will it pencil out?
Public service as a way of life
We also believe there is a large, untapped desire among young people to engage in meaningful careers that permit them to help others. Public Interest lawyers have an unparalleled opportunity do such meaningful work. The current economic structure of higher education, however, creates huge disincentives for new lawyers to make that choice. We propose to change that.
The City’s law school should be chartered, structured, and operated as a non-profit exercise dedicated to educating lawyers who desire to enter the field of public interest law.
Tuition and fees would be capped at no more than $10,000 per year -- as such, could be very selective of candidates
In addition to the commonly used admission standards (undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores) the law school would use additional criteria to admit only those students with a demonstrated commitment to entering the field of public interest law
Substantive and clinical class offerings would be more limited than those found at existing law schools with a broader focus, but would provide more depth in the field of public interest
What would a City law school look like?
The high cost of legal services presents a significant impediment to widespread access. At the same time, the high cost of obtaining a law degree constitutes a structural impediment to young lawyers entering the field of public interest law, whether working for organizations like CLS, or in private practice. This creates a vicious, self-perpetuating cycle.
We propose that the City should become the first governmental entity to enter the field of legal education
The Arizona School of Public Interest Law
Support for the Family (Divorce, Child Custody, Paternity, Parenting Time, Guardianship)
Maintaining Economic Stability
Public Benefits (Health Care (state and federal programs, including Indian Health Services), SSI (with Advocates for the Disabled), DES Programs (including TANF, Food Stamps), Education, SSI)
LITC (Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic)
Employment (Unpaid Wage Claims, Unemployment Insurance, Unemployment Compensation Issues, EEOC Mediation)
Consumer Protection (Predatory Lending, Credit Access, Insurance, Vehicles, Education, Housing, Other exploitative lending practices, Bankruptcy)
Preserving the Home (Landlord/Tenant problems, Subsidized Housing Issues (Section 8), Illegal Evictions, Utility Shut-Offs, Illegal Lock-Outs, Habitability Issues, Homelessness Prevention, Fair Housing (Discrimination), Foreclosure Issues)
Farmworker / Employment / Income Tax Assistance
ezCourt Forms (https://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/ezcourtforms/index.asp)
The Superior Court's portal for preparing court documents, contains interactive interviews that will assist in completing the forms necessary to create court documents for Legal Separation, Dissolution of Marriage, Conciliation, etc.
Collection of organizations in Arizona that provide legal assistance for free or at a reduced cost.
Free legal resources focused on Veterans
Lawyers on Call is a public service program sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona and Phoenix's 12 News KPNX TV. Members of the public can have their legal questions answered (for free) by volunteer lawyers.
A little technical for most, but some good access
The City’s website could include a page on available legal services
Should be easily identifiable from the City’s home page, perhaps with a button as simple as “DO YOU NEED HELP WITH A LEGAL PROBLEM?”
The 5 Pillar Approach