Equal Access to Justice's Board of Directors is grateful for and recognizes the partnership of 19 volunteer committee members and 317 attorneys, law firms, and other concerned community members that came together to support the critical civil legal needs in New Mexico. Through their generosity and unwavering belief in the critical need for civil legal services, over $222, 895 was raised during Equal Access to Justice's annual campaign.
Volunteer Campaign Committee Member, Ed Marks, shares, "As the former Executive Director for New Mexico Legal Aid, I can tell you that even in the best of times government funding and private foundation grants for civil legal aid programs are able to meet only about 20% of the need. EAJ dollars are the most flexible of all the funding sources available for New Mexico's legal aid programs, allowing each program a strategically invaluable cushion to make sure that the most vulnerable residents and their families don't get turned away."
For over 30 years, Equal Access to Justice has been funding justice for all, in collaboration with New Mexico Legal Aid, New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty, and DNA- People's Legal Services. Contributions to EAJ help increase access to justice for New Mexicans by providing unrestricted, noncompetitive funds to these organizations that, collectively, meet critical legal needs by providing direct representation, legal information, and systemic advocacy.
In the fall of 2020, to help kick off our campaign, we interviewed three New Mexico civil legal service attorneys regarding one of the most pressing civil legal issues of our time -- evictions.
These three short videos answer the following questions:
Brenda Anderson of DNA-People's Legal Services, Maria Griego of New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty, and Tom Prettyman of New Mexico Legal Aid share their first-hand knowledge and experiences of working to help families stay sheltered safely in their homes during this pandemic.
Our gratitude to communications expert and videographer Dorian Cundick for her pro-bono video editing and advice.
in 2018, the current administration quietly closed the Justice Department's Access to Justice Office. A group of lawmakers are currently working to reopen this office.
"The reality is that the federal government's response needs to be more holistic with respect to the legal needs of low-income and underrepresented people," she said. "Not having an office considering the issue of access to justice right now is a problem." - Maha Jweied, final ATJ acting director
Read the article by clicking HERE.
The impact of the COVID pandemic and subsequent economic downturn will have devastating effects on many of those most already impacted. "For years, legal aid has served as a stopgap in a social safety net system that, as Bergmark put it, is spectacularly 'skewed towards disqualifying people.' But 'what’s coming down the tracks,' she told me, 'is an out-of-control train': millions of people about to emerge from the pandemic newly jobless and poor; facing eviction, hungry creditors, and soon-to-be-denied benefits; about to become acquainted with the meager portion of justice America reserves for people like them."
Read the full article, "No Money, No Lawyer, No Justice: The vast, hidden inequalities of the civil legal system" here.
Thanks to the generous support from individuals, law firms, and solo practitioners, we exceeded our 2019-20 campaign goal by over $16,000. The organizations these contributions support are stepping up to help ensure that New Mexicans are not being forgotten and have critical information in the midst of this pandemic.
Equal Access to Justice launched this year's campaign on October 1, 2019! The campaign continues to grow every year as we add new Committee members (this year's additions thus far include David Freedman, Earl Mettler, Erin K. McSherry, Senator Bill Tallman, and Bob Tinnin), welcome new individual and firm supporters, and spread the word about the work our partner organizations do every day to meet the critical legal needs of New Mexicans. Join us!
Defenders of justice gathered recently in both Santa Fe (at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art) and Albuquerque (at HB Construction headquarters) to learn the latest about innovative efforts in legal aid and advocacy. Executive Directors of our partner organizations New Mexico Legal Aid, New Mexico Center on Law & Poverty, and DNA-People's Legal Services shared how they are, respectively, making racial justice part of everything they do, making the case for ALL of New Mexico's families, and getting back on track to support native people. Thanks to all who attended in support!
By Katy Barnitz / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 at 5:59pm
Updated: Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 at 11:30pm
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s common knowledge that the criminally accused are guaranteed access to an attorney, but a New Mexico commission is launching a campaign to remind the public that people are often on their own when it comes to civil matters.
A growing number of people are representing themselves in high-stakes legal battles over things like child custody, eviction, predatory lending and access to benefits. According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, just more than half of new civil cases filed in district court in fiscal year 2018 involved at least one party without a lawyer – up from 36% in fiscal year 2011.
“Without any legal experience, New Mexicans find themselves in court, often outmaneuvered by the party who has a lawyer, not understanding the rules that govern the proceedings, including the important deadlines and not fully understanding their rights,” Supreme Court Justice Shannon Bacon said at a news conference Tuesday. “This all too frequently results in dire consequences.”
“Think About This,” a six-week, $25,000 print, radio and television ad campaign by the state’s Commission on Access to Justice begins this week. It is intended to show that a “lack of legal representation is causing serious injustice and suffering in civil cases,” according to a news release.
“We’re never going to get the support we need for the improvements unless we raise people’s awareness,” commission co-chair Liz McGrath said in an interview after the news conference.
The commission, founded by the state Supreme Court in 2004, is working to make resources more readily available, particularly to people with essential civil needs, including housing issues, family law and consumer debt. In some cases, that might mean directing a person to a plain language, online form. In others it might require free legal representation. In recent months, the courts have been rolling out its own initiatives to make the system easier to access. In May, the AOC said a work group was considering whether non-attorney practitioners should be allowed to provide civil legal help to people unable to afford a lawyer. And early this month, the courts started a new online dispute resolution program, which is available in debt and money-due lawsuits.
But Bacon said Tuesday afternoon that the court system and legal service providers will need community help in order to make expanded access a reality.
“It takes the whole community to care about the problem and to come together and try and create solutions,” she said. “Whether it’s collaboration, creative thinking, it takes everybody to get to that ultimate goal – it’s a lofty goal – of 100 percent access.”
"Private and public sectors need to work together to fix the broken civil justice system and ensure justice for all." Here's a strong argument in Fortune Magazine for why corporations should invest in Civil Justice Reform from DavidZapolsky of Amazon Read here - https://bit.ly/2XUqJkt
The full 2018-19 campaign report is now available! You are invited to learn more about the impact of generous gifts made to EAJ, read the names of our 257 donors, and see more details about the Equal Access to Justice 2018-29 Campaign results. Access the report below.