For some reason, I wanted to celebrate June on the blog. Maybe it’s because June introduces summer. And summer holds precious memories for many – school is dismissed, it’s a popular wedding month, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Ok, growing up in middle Tennessee may not make me an expert on current events there, but reading the Tennessean sure helps me understand what’s happening with access to justice. And, it sounds very similar to what we’re hearing in South Carolina. Take a look at a few excerpts from an article about self-represented litigants:
Tennessee’s legal aid system is under-funded and overwhelmed. There are only enough legal aid attorneys in the entire state to help one out of every five eligible people who come to them for help. In Middle Tennessee, the legal aid society turns away six people for every one it can help.
“The legal aid system is overworked and terribly underpaid. It’s a tragedy,” he said.
There are 75 legal aid attorneys in Tennessee, operating on a budget of $3.3 million to try to help low-income families navigate the civil court system.
Judges see firsthand what can happen when a self-represented litigant goes up against a trained litigator. In divorce court alone, Ash estimates that 80 percent of the spouses who come to him seeking orders of protection are self-represented.
“If one side has counsel, it puts the other at a terrible disadvantage,” Ash said. “I cannot be their advocate.”
On Friday, December 5th, the Tennessee Supreme Court announced an Access to Justice Initiative. Chief Justice Janice Holder offered a few remarks as to outline measures of the initiative as well as some general information as to the necessity of the initiative.
Only one in five income-eligible people will receive the legal help they need.
In our current troubled economy, the need for civil legal services among Tennessee’s indigent and working poor families can only be expected to increase as they face more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions, and foreclosures.
We send our best wishes to Tennessee with this initiative and offer our support. Congratulations and welcome aboard!