Committees of the
Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission
The Executive Committee oversees the work of the Commission overall, the work of the committees, and the annual report to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Access to Lawyers Committee
This committee seeks to increase access to attorneys for litigants who are either below the poverty level or above the poverty threshold, but still lacking income sufficient to be able to afford a lawyer. Efforts include promoting use of fee-shifting statutes and Limited Assistance Representation, including understanding what impacts current use and exploring avenues to increase use in both pro bono and for-fee models.
This committee aims to inform the public of the purpose and need for the Access to Justice Commission; educate the public on the Commission’s mission and activities; learn from the public and stakeholders about issues that may warrant a systemic response or collaborative response; engage current Commissioners and potential future Commissioners with the Commission’s activities; and engage other stakeholders with the Commission’s activities.
Consumer Debt Committee
This committee engages in a range of related systemic reforms concerning the substantive practice of consumer debt, addressing many of the reforms suggested in the Justice for All Strategic Action Plan as well as continued emerging issues.
COVID-19 Task Force Leadership Committee
This committee addresses issues related to the impact of COVID-19 on court processes, including barriers to access created by courts’ moving toward remote proceedings, with a focus on three areas with high turnout of self-represented litigants: consumer debt, housing and family law. The committee includes leadership from the Commission’s Ecosystem, Consumer Debt, Housing and Family Law Committees.
This committee focuses on identifying improvements in our statewide delivery system that would foster collaboration and coordination among the various individuals, organizations, institutions, materials, technologies, practices, and infrastructure that comprise the legal help ecosystem. A key part of this strategy is engaging and sharing legal information with social services providers and advocates as a way to reach self-represented litigants, an agenda which has been advanced recently through our COVID-19 Task Force. This committee also has a specific focus on utilizing technology as a tool to increase access to justice.
Family Law Committee
This newly-constituted committee engages in a range of related systemic reforms concerning the substantive practice of family law, addressing many of the reforms suggested in the Justice for All Strategic Action Plan as well as continued emerging issues.
This committee engages in a range of related systemic reforms concerning the substantive practice of housing law, with a particular focus on summary process (eviction), addressing many of the reforms suggested in the Justice for All Strategic Action Plan as well as continued emerging issues.
Online Dispute Resolution Committee
This newly-formed committee will focus both broadly on the access to justice implications of court-based Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) as it impacts self-represented litigants as well as recommendations for implementing ODR in the non-debt-collection realm of small claims. The Committee will examine this narrow implementation and use this example to consider access to justice issues in connection with possible expansion of ODR.
Revenue Enhancement Committee
This committee identifies ways to increase the funding of civil legal aid through innovative means, including investigating new sources of state funding, federal funding, foundation funding, and private philanthropy.
Currently Inactive Committees*
Criminal-Civil Crossover Committee
This committee has investigated gaps in legal services at the intersection of the civil and criminal justice systems and is working to identify opportunities for greater coordination, replication of localized best practices, and expansion of legal assistance for civil legal issues affecting persons involved in the criminal justice system.
Delivery of Legal Services Committee
This committee considers the civil legal services delivery system as a whole and seeks to identify opportunities for systemic improvement.
Self-Represented Litigants Committee
This committee seeks to identify and support improvements to the justice system for those who do not have a lawyer.
*Currently inactive as committees but may maintain some ongoing projects