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Law journal to host free conference on Access to Justice

February 4, 2013 | Events

On Feb. 22, the Ohio State Law Journal, working collaboratively with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF), The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law’s Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), and the Moritz Pro Bono Research Group (PBRG), is pleased to present “Opening Courtroom Doors: Access to Justice in Ohio,” featuring keynote speaker Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

In 1951, when addressing the New York Legal Aid Society, Justice Billings Learned Hand admonished that, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice.” Ohio, like her sister states, may now be facing a crisis in access to justice as her courts, her Public Defender, and her legal aid societies struggle with dramatically reduced funding. Yet, courtroom doors must remain open and accessible to every Ohioan regardless of their economic status.

In 2006, the Supreme Court of Ohio led the State in addressing Access to Justice issues by convening a Task Force on Pro Se and Indigent Litigants. The task force recognized that “access to justice is a fundamental right that is not being afforded to all citizens, especially indigent and pro se litigants” and, in response, crafted recommendations intended to improve access to justice in Ohio. Shortly after the task force completed its work, the Great Recession engulfed the country and the state. Today, nearly 1.5 million Ohioans live below the poverty level; courts contend with limited resources and increased numbers of pro se and limited English proficient litigants; and Ohio’s legal aid societies have lost nearly 30 percent of their staff attorneys statewide since the start of the recession.

Ohio must initiate a new and innovative dialogue about our justice system so that Ohio can fulfill the promise of our Pledge of Allegiance: justice for all. To launch this conversation, Opening Courtroom Doors: Access to Justice in Ohiowill engage key stakeholders in a thoughtful and challenging discussion on the future of Access to Justice in the state of Ohio. More specifically, this conference will feature panel discussions addressing approaches other states are taking to improve Access to Justice issues, the unique Access to Justice issues in Ohio, and the ethical obligations attorneys face in ensuring Access to Justice in Ohio.

Other speakers involved in the conference include: William D. Dowling, Ohio State Bar Association Access to Justice Committee chair; Meredith McBurney, American Bar Association, resource development consultant, ABA Resource Center for ATJ Initiatives; Justice Nathan L. Hecht, Texas Supreme Court, representative on the Texas Access to Justice Commission; Professor Peter Edelman, Georgetown Law, co-director, Joint Degree in Law and Public Policy, and faculty director, Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy; Judge Gene A. Zmuda, Lucas County Common Pleas Court; Rep. Kathleen Clyde ’08, 75th House District, Ohio House of Representatives; Colleen Cotter, director of Legal Aid Society of Cleveland; Tim Young, director of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender; David W. Alexander ’78, partner, Squire Sanders, and Columbus Bar Foundation Board of Trustees; and Alvin E. Mathews Jr., partner, James E. Arnold & Associates, LPA.

Pending approval, the conference will offer 3 hours of CLE credits to attorneys who attend, including 1 hour of instruction related to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct (ethics education). Lunch will be provided for a limited number of participants at the Ohio Union across the street from the conference. All the conference speakers will be attending this lunch. Registration will be available on the Ohio State Law Journal’s website at http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/students/groups/oslj/. The deadline to register is Feb. 14.