JUSTICE FOR ALL
When I was a young girl growing up in Roanoke, Virginia, our class started each day with the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge ended with the words from which I drew inspiration: "Justice for All." Now, those words ring hollow for many Coloradans.
Wealth inequality has been widely discussed as a political issue. Less attention, however, is paid to the ever-growing barriers to civil justice for low-income people trying to protect themselves and their families. Access to legal counsel is a growing national problem even though there are now more than 41,000 lawyers in Colorado. In nearly all civil cases -eviction, foreclosure, unpaid wages, and domestic violence - there is no right to counsel at public expense as there is in the criminal system.
Those who cannot afford to hire an attorney must fend for themselves. Colorado Legal Services (CLS) is a Colorado non-profit Corporation. It is the last hope for many facing serious civil legal problems. Go to:
CLS provides free legal help to low income individuals and families. Clients of CLS include veterans,
seniors, and people with disabilities. Over two-thirds of the clients are female. In 2018, CLS closed 9,358 cases, benefitting 18,883 low-income Coloradans. Besides legal representation, Colorado Legal Services provides for no charge: materials, forms, and clinics for people to learn how to represent themselves in court in civil cases.
Still, access to justice is not assured. The fundamental right of "justice for all" is at risk for millions of Americans. A recent study found that in the past year, 86 percent of low-income Americans with civil legal problems received inadequate or no legal help. Here in Colorado, CLS turns away at least one income-eligible person for every person it is able to help due to a lack of resources.
Many lawyers and law firms in the state donate every year to the Colorado Legal Aid Foundation, a non-profit whose sole mission is to raise funds for Colorado Legal Services. But with more and more Coloradans struggling to find affordable medical care, housing, transportation and food, the
for civil legal aid continues to grow. Lawyers are not on most families' budget.
Approximately 40 percent of the funding for Colorado Legal Services is provided by the federal government through an annual appropriation from the federal Legal Services Corporation. A new federal budget will be negotiated
shortly. Some politicians have called for a complete federal de-funding of the LSC. Please let your representatives and our senators know that access to justice
for all is important to you, and demand robust funding for the Legal Services Corporation. H.R. 2157
As a member of the board of Colorado Legal Aid Foundation, may I ask you please to consider a donation to CLAF at www.legalaidfoundation.org. And when you next visit your lawyer, ask her whether she has made a contribution to Colorado Legal Aid Foundation as well.