Lawyers might have to boost pro bono work to handle coming 'tsunami,' Minton says

01/26/2011 07:22 PM

A 30-member group on Thursday will begin debating ways to increase representation for low-income Kentuckians who must go to court but can’t afford a lawyer.

Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton said the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission is modeled off of similar groups formed by other states to tackle the growing problem to make sure people aren’t forced into court proceedings — such as civil cases, bankruptcies or divorces — to fend for themselves.

“Our concern is to make courts as accessible as we can make them for folks who need to get there,” Minton said on Pure Politics Wednesday. “It’s been described as the next tsunami in the law, (which) will be the influx of unrepresented persons — persons who come to court without a lawyer.”

Kentucky’s court system encourages law firms to donate their time. But there is no set requirement, Minton said.

Mississippi’s Access to Justice Commission recommended requiring lawyers to perform 20 hours a year of pro bono work or, if not, pay a $500 fee.

Minton and Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham announced the formation of the commission in October.

Kentucky Legal Aid receives 4,000 requests for legal help a month. About 55% of those who are qualified to receive such legal assistance are turned away because of a lack of resources, according to the Administrative Offices of the Court.

- Ryan Alessi


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