Commission Addresses Legal Services

May 30, 2006--Posted at 11:00 pm

JONESBORO-- The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission held a town hall meeting in Jonesboro to discuss vital issues in the justice system.

These meetings are held in each of the congressional districts for the state...

Tonight commission members talked about the civil legal needs of low-income residents. It was the commission's goal to address the civil legal needs of low income Arkansans... A class in the justice system many say is often overlooked.

But the commission hopes to put collective ideas to work...

Judge Jim Spears says, "We're here as a fact finder. The congressman will preside and we'll try to find out some ways that we can be of service in better providing lawyers, like I said, to those who can't afford lawyers."

The main challenge the commission says they face is a drastic cut back in federal funding for legal services.

"Congress has chosen to cut back over the years for various reasons and now we're left with just a bare boned legal services that we're trying very hard to provide services," Spears says.

For a rural areas like those of Northeast Arkansas, these issues are extremely important, thus the commission is looking for lawyers that provide free services provide people the opportunity to represent themselves...

Bottom line... They want to make the system more simplistic for people who can't afford lawyers...

"This area is no different from the other areas of the state. We've got a lot of poor people and alot of needs and we're trying as a profession and as the courts to see if we can't meet those needs," Spears says.

Most that addressed the panel we're committed to helping those in need by urging congress to provide additional funding for legal services... And paying less attention to policies and more to the individuals in need.

Panel members included Congressman Marion Berry, Justice Annabelle Imber of the Arkansas Supreme Court and President of the Arkansas Bar Association, Glenn Vasser.