Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

State News

September 29, 2013

Panel aims to improve legal services

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court has created a statewide commission aimed at improving the availability of civil legal services for low-income residents.

The 17 members of the Indiana Commission to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services will include judges, law professors, practicing attorneys, existing civil legal services providers, nonprofit groups and representatives from business, finance and labor, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote in an order dated Monday.

The court has given the panel a year to develop a five-year plan to improve civil legal services to low-income “or otherwise disadvantaged Indiana residents.”

Similar groups, commonly known as “access to justice” commissions, exist in more than half of the states, Dickson wrote.

“A group of Indiana stakeholders has approached the Indiana Supreme Court and urged the Court to create a broad-based commission to work toward a goal of expanding the availability and provision of legal services to Indiana residents with limited financial resources,” Dickson said in the order.

The commission is not designed to replace groups or organizations already providing civil legal services, but to study them and improve cooperation among them, Dickson said.

The Indiana Bar Foundation, the Indiana State Bar Association and several providers of legal services to the needy supported the court’s proposal to create the commission, Dickson said.

The commission’s first progress report is due June 30.

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