The number-1 goal of the Arizona courts is access to justice.

The number-1 goal of the Arizona courts is access to justice.

How busy is your average day? How would you assess yourself on the helpfulness scale?

I hope you’re a typically helpful person, but when I saw what Arizona legal aid agencies do in a single day, I realized I’d have to step up to even come close.

The following terrific information came my way from Heather Murphy at the Arizona Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts. She passed on an analysis from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education (or the Bar Foundation, if you prefer) that shows the activities of those agencies on just one day. As they say, what a difference a day makes.

As they indicate below, the agencies tracked the activity related to individuals seeking assistance for crises that only legal expertise can resolve. The help they offer is remarkable. The gap that remains is huge—and growing.

Heather reminds me that access to justice is one of the five priority areas in Advancing Justice Together: Courts & Communities, the five-year strategic agenda for Arizona’s statewide network of courts. You can read the strategic agenda here.

And more about the Arizona Commission on Access to Justice is here.

And here is the Foundation:

The phones started ringing early at legal aid agencies across Arizona, and kept ringing as people also walked in and requested help via an online portal: 597 Arizona families were calling out for legal help on this one day.

In honor of Governor Doug Ducey’s proclamation declaring April “Access to Justice Month,” Arizona’s three legal aid agencies organized a “What a Difference a Day Makes” campaign to bring attention to the importance of and need for access to legal resources and assistance. For 24 hours, Community Legal Services, DNA People’s Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid tracked the activity related to individuals seeking assistance for crises that only legal expertise can resolve. On Tuesday, April 14, Arizona’s legal aid organizations made an enormous difference:

  • In the lives of 509 individuals who were offered help in their legal crisis
  • With the 69 people given support in self-help legal clinics
  • With the assistance of 25 volunteer attorneys donating their time and expertise free of charge

Each day, the legal aid agencies across Arizona are making a difference in the lives of those they serve and in the communities where they live.  These unsung heroes should be thanked. But you best send a note, because their phone lines will be busy helping the next person in need.

In 2014:

  • The three Arizona legal aid agencies helped 31,605 Arizonans: 17,663 adults and 13,942 children.
  • Legal assistance was provided to Arizonans in each of the state’s 15 counties and Arizona’s 21 Native American tribes.

Community Legal Services, DNA People’s Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid provide legal assistance on various areas of law, including: family law with an emphasis on eliminating domestic violence; consumer; employment; housing and mortgage foreclosure; individual rights; health/medical related; and public benefits (access to government benefits such as unemployment insurance and social security disability benefits).

More information about all three agencies is below. Contact them to make a difference yourself:

Anthony Young, Southern Arizona Legal Aid

Last week, we got the great news that an Arizona legal leader was selected to be part of a small group to speak at the White House.

The topic was legal-aid funding, so we’d probably agree that the fact there’s a need for such a summit is not so great. Nonetheless, the nation and our state are served well by Anthony Young being designated.

As a Legal Services Corporation story reported:

“At a White House forum April 17 on the state of civil legal assistance, co-hosted by LSC, President Obama said that making civil legal assistance available to low-income Americans is “central to our notion of equal justice under the law,” and pledged to be a “fierce defender and advocate” for legal services.

“Those remarks drew to a close two hours of spirited discussion of the state of civil legal assistance by a diverse group of national leaders.”

The complete story is here.

And here is a press release on Anthony Young’s contribution.

Washington, DC – Southern Arizona Legal Aid (SALA) Executive Director Anthony Young was a panelist today at a White House forum examining the state of civil legal assistance for low-income Americans. The forum was co-hosted by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).

Young noted that SALA sustained a 20 percent decrease in funding over the past year, requiring a reduction in staff, from 63 to 56, and the closure of its office in Santa Cruz County, the poorest community in its service area. With fewer staff, “we are using more volunteers, and using them in different ways,” Young said after the forum. “Our pro bono lawyers are training pro se litigants on how to complete the forms they need, file them, and navigate the court system without a lawyer.”

“Southern Arizona Legal Aid proves the value of collaboration in providing access to justice,” said LSC President James J. Sandman, who moderated the panel of directors from LSC-funded programs. “SALA’s partnership with the University of Arizona Law School extends the reach of the program’s foreclosure prevention work. Through SALA’s Volunteer Lawyers Program, private attorneys represent clients pro bono and assist self-represented individuals. Through these collaborations, many low-income Arizonans gain access to justice they would not otherwise have.”

President Obama also spoke briefly at the forum, saying that the availability of civil legal assistance to low-income Americans is “central to our notion of equal justice under the law,” and pledging to be “a fierce defender and advocate” for legal services.

Anthony Young at the White House

Other speakers at the forum included: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; Deputy Chief of Staff to the President Mark Childress; former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh; U.S. Department of State Legal Advisor Harold Hongju Koh; Department of Veterans Affairs General Counsel Will A. Gunn; White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler; Justice Jess H. Dickinson of the Mississippi Supreme Court; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; American Bar Association President William T. Robinson; LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, who is also vice chair of the LSC board.

Young is one of six directors chosen from among the 135 organizations nationally that receive federal funding through LSC. In addition to Arizona, other states represented on the panel were Georgia, Montana, Ohio, Virginia and Washington.

Established by Congress in 1974, LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal assistance in the nation. LSC grants help address the civil legal needs of the elderly, victims of domestic violence, veterans seeking benefits to which they are entitled, persons with disabilities, tenants facing unlawful evictions, and other civil matters.