I am pleased to announce that, by order of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, I have been appointed to the Access to Justice Commission, effective February 28, 2011. The ten members of the Commission, who were just re-appointed to three-year terms, are Judge Vanessa Ruiz; Stephen J. Pollak; Nathalie F.P. Gilfoyle; Andrew Marks; Su Sie Ju; Professor Peter Edelman; Patricia Mullahy Fugere; Dean Katherine S. Broderick; John Bouker; and Maria Gomez. The eight new commissioners, including myself, are Judge Anna Blackburne-Rigsby; Judge Melvin Wright; Judge Jose Lopez; Thomas S. Williamson, Jr.; Mark E. Herzog; Eric S. Angel; T.J. Sutcliffe; and Sheldon Krantz.
The D.C. Access to Justice Commission was created by the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2005 to help improve the ability of low- and moderate-income residents to access the civil justice system. Former Legal Aid Executive Director Jonathan Smith was instrumental in both the establishment of the Commission and many of its successes.
The Access to Justice Commission has a lofty mandate: “assuring high access for low and moderate income residents and others in the District of Columbia, who suffer disparate access barriers to the civil justice system, and with raising the profile in our community of the need for equal access to justice.” The Commission has been hard at work in meeting these goals. Most notably, in its very first year of existence, the Commission succeeded in establishing a landmark annual appropriation of public funds for civil legal services. That appropriation provided $10 million in District government support in its first three years alone. The Commission has also established a variety of committees focusing on access to justice issues. To use just one example, the Commission encouraged the establishment of a court-wide committee to focus on fee waiver issues at the court, culminating in the impressive changes that were instituted last year as discussed on this blog on April 13, 2010.
I look forward to being able to discuss similar accomplishments at improving access to justice in the coming years.