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News Release

July 12, 2017

Contact: Steve Davis, Court Communications Director, (515)725-8058 or steve.davis@iowacourts.gov

Supreme Court Commission Report Highlights the Need to Close the Justice Gap in Iowa

Des Moines, July 12, 2017 The commission charged by the Iowa Supreme Court to identify and remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans has issued its initial report. The Access to Justice Commission report identifies and assesses the current and future needs of low-income Iowans in civil matters, makes short-term recommendations, and sets long term goals.

According to a resolution of The Iowa State Bar Association (ISBA), half of one million Iowans live at or below 125 percent of the poverty line. The ISBA resolution further states that at least one million more Iowans have difficulty affording a lawyer to handle basic legal needs. As a result, many do not get the legal aid they need or choose to represent themselves in court. Members of the Access to Justice Commission looked at the civil legal needs of low-income Iowans including those who are military veterans, those who live in rural areas of the state with few attorneys, and those who need the assistance of an interpreter once in court.

The commission also looked at ways to involve other groups to help meet needs of disadvantaged Iowans needing access to the courts. Recommendations included encouraging attorneys to donate their time and legal expertise (pro bono), or to represent low-income Iowans at a reduced rate (low bono). The commission also recommended ways to involve Iowa businesses and business associations in the effort and to identify ways to work with existing organizations to raise awareness of available services and connect those services to those in need.

The Iowa Supreme Court Access to Justice Commission was formed by order of the Iowa Supreme Court June 27, 2016. Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel was appointed chair. Through subsequent orders, the supreme court appointed 29 members to the Commission. Iowa lawyer Anjie Shutts was named vice chair. Commission members met on four occasions as a group and multiple times in smaller workgroups (Corporate Involvement, Public Outreach, Pro Bono, Veterans Access, Rural Access, Language Access, and Case Processing).

The report is posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at http://www.iowacourts.gov/wfData/files/Reports/ATJ%20Commission%20Final%20Report%20July%202017.pdf .

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