In April, the Colorado Access to Justice Commission released a strategic vision report, which outlines its two-year plan to advance access to justice throughout the state. The commission’s four priority areas include expanding legal services in underserved rural areas, establishing a statewide online legal help portal, increasing funding, and bolstering communications.
The commission was established by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2003 to ensure that the state’s civil legal system is accessible, fair, and efficient for all Coloradans, regardless of their income or background. The commission consists of 20 members, including judges, attorneys, and representatives from various community organizations, including IAALS CEO Brittany Kauffman and board member Sam Walker.
This latest strategic vision report outlines the commission’s goals and priorities for the next three years, focusing on four key areas:
- Expanding legal services in underserved rural areas: promoting the continued and permanent use of remote proceedings by trial and appellate courts (when appropriate), as well as encouraging attorneys to practice in areas with few or no lawyers
- Developing a statewide online legal help portal: creating a go-to website for connecting people with appropriate legal resources
- Increasing funding for both legal aid and the commission: achieving sustained and reliable funding for the commission’s work, in addition to substantially increasing funding for civil legal-aid services
- Increasing public awareness about the need for and urgency of efforts to address the justice gap: fostering awareness and understanding of the importance of access to justice, as well as promoting the solutions identified in its Listen & Learn Tour
Although access to justice is a broad issue, the commission narrowed in on these priorities after its Listen & Learn Tour in 2021. The commission hosted over 40 virtual meetings, seeking input from nearly 520 legal and community stakeholders on the barriers they encounter in accessing the civil justice system. By gathering the input of those who use the court system—who rely on it to decide some of the most important issues in their lives—we move closer to courts and legal service organizations that serve everyone.
The commission will be codified via HB23-1280, which passed with broad bipartisan support; the bill will be signed tomorrow, June 2, by Governor Jared Polis at a public signing ceremony. This guarantees the commission will be able to continue its critical work promoting equal access to justice for all Coloradans for many years to come.