Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Critique of Florida Access To Justice Commission's Initial Recommendations

Back in July, the Florida Supreme Court rejected a proposal to improve legal aid funding by increasing annual bar dues by $1000 which would have netted something on the order of $10 million in additional legal aid funding.  At the same time, a newly formed task force called the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice was working on recommendations to deal with the issue.

Those recommendations are now available and, at least according to Sam Wright of Above the Law, they are disappointing.  For example, the first one, recommends "support of the continued development of the Statewide Gateway Portal and approval of a pilot project, subject to obtaining adequate funding.”  Huh?  What the heck does that mean?  It appears it is a plea for funding to create a self help website.  Really?  You want to provide access to legal representation because there is no funding, by asking for funding so that people can represent themselves?

The second recommendation is even more precious: to approve the Commission’s adoption of an aspirational goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs.”  Let's see, aspirational goal vs. $10 million in additional legal aid funding...  Tough one!  

Not everything is bad news, though.  One recommendation is to apply some income from class action litigation for financing legal aid. Yet, all in all, the recommendations seem to be weak. Read the details and critique of the rest at Above the Law.

Also, the recommendations do not address another issue under debate in the state.  Maybe the state could do better at providing access to legal representation, if it lowered barriers that prevent lawyers from other states from practicing there.  Yet, just this month, the Florida Bar tabled a proposal to adopt reciprocity or some other form of admission on motion. More on that here.

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