Regardless of income or race or any other factor people should have equal access to the court system. Everyone needs to have confidence that if the day comes where they have a need to go to the court system that… they are going to be treated with respect and they’re not going to have economic obstacles to equal justice.
– Chief Justice Mark Martin
Interview with Attorney at Law Magazine
The North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission was created with the purpose of expanding the accessibility of the civil justice system to include North Carolina’s low-income residents and residents of modest means. The commission is collaborative in nature and utilizes its diverse members to coordinate the delivery of civil legal aid services to those in need in North Carolina.
- Establish the right to counsel in civil matters affecting basic human needs.
- Increase legislative funding of civil legal services at the state and federal levels.
- Encourage/support pro bono attorney participation.
- Help pro se litigants navigate the court system successfully.
- Educate the public.
- Increase the role of the business community.
- Include people with limited English proficiency in the justice system.
- Increase loan repayment assistance.
THE COMMISSION DOES NOT MAKE LEGAL REFERRALS NOR PROVIDE LEGAL ADVICE.
Why the NC Equal Access to Justice Commission Exists
- A staggering 80% of all the civil legal needs of the poor go unmet each year. Civil legal needs include legal representation in the areas of domestic violence, divorce, child custody, housing, consumer protection, employment, veterans’ benefits, and health.
- 71% of low-income families will experience at least one civil legal issue a year. There is only one legal aid attorney for every 11,000 North Carolinians eligible for legal services. In contrast, there is one private lawyer for every 362 North Carolina residents.
- There were more than 2.2 million North Carolinians eligible for the services of legal aid providers in 2016.
What these statistics mean is that there are many people eligible for legal assistance, but few providers of those legal services. This is an important issue as civil legal matters can impact basic human needs, such as housing and health insurance, and the availability of legal representation or advice can be the difference between being homeless and having shelter or being able to get the necessary medical care. In 2016 alone legal aid providers across the state generated $52,122,184 in economic impact.
How Can You Help?
There are a variety of ways that you can help.
Legal Aid organizations face a never-ending struggle to maintain funding and donations are always welcome and appreciated.
The North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 6.1 states that attorneys should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono services per year. Attorney volunteers are crucial to bridging the gap between those with low/modest-income and the court system. If you are an attorney and you are looking to provide pro bono service, please follow the link below to find a list of pro bono opportunities.
Contact Your Legislators
The new state budget made heavy cuts to legal aid funding. The General Assembly eliminated the Access to Civil Justice Act and the accompanying $1.50 filing fee. To advocate for the restoration of the $1.7 million in funding lost, please contact your representatives using the link below.