Laws, legal procedures, rules, and regulations affect nearly every aspect of our lives. They govern — and may restrict — family relations, what we owe others, how others treat us, how we can get and keep jobs, whether we can stay in our homes, whether we can get help when we are sick or injured or lose a job or become homeless. Many of the most important human problems have a legal side. Our legal system may protect us if we can navigate it effectively — and may not enforce our legal rights if we cannot. This poses a great risk, because most Californians cannot get help from lawyers if they must pay market rates to hire them.
Our Mission: Collaboration and Innovation
In response to this risk, our country, our state, and our communities have created an array of ways to avoid or reduce injustice. Legal Aid programs can help many but because of limited funding cannot help all who need it. So can pro bono programs that use lawyers who work without charge to the clients. Self Help Legal Access Centers now exist in all state Superior Courts, which provide guidance and assistance so that some people can navigate legal problems representing themselves. The Access Commission coordinates these forms of help, and we have increased their funding and reach.
We have helped start new Right to Counsel programs, where the government pays for lawyers, and Incubator programs to serve moderate-income people more efficiently and at lower rates. We pioneered Limited Scope representation to lower the cost of hiring lawyers. We monitor and propose rules and practices in courts to help non-English speakers, low and moderate-income people, workers, immigrants, people with disabilities, and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) individuals.
While a multitude of obstacles can face those who lack a paid lawyer’s help in seeking justice, a multitude of solutions and forms of help and access can respond — if the right stakeholders collaborate and innovate.
This is the mission of the California Access to Justice Commission. We are appointed by stakeholders in the courts, government, the legislature, lawyers’ organizations, business, labor, and others. We do not run the institutions that write and carry out laws and rules, and we do not operate the programs that help people with their legal problems — but we work to bring them together for solutions as varied as the problems of injustice they address.
Our IRS 501(c)(3) determination letter is available here.
Our bylaws are available here.
Commissioner conflict of interest forms are here.