One in four Arkansans live at or below 125% of the federal poverty level and are eligible to receive free civil legal services. Yet every year, more than half of the 30,000 qualified Arkansans who contact a legal aid provider for help with civil legal issues are turned away due to a lack of resources. Numerous others don’t qualify for legal aid because their income exceeds the eligibility threshold, yet they still can’t afford attorneys to help them. The problems they face often involve basic human needs: protection from domestic violence, economic security for the elderly and disabled, and safe and habitable housing, to name a few. Those who are unable to obtain legal aid or afford an attorney are left to navigate the legal system on their own, often with lasting repercussions. Lack of access contributes to cycles that keep people in poverty and has negative consequences for our system of justice, and ultimately the rule of law.
The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission works to ensure justice for all. That means that all Arkansans get the protections of the law. We research the unmet legal problems of Arkansans, encourage attorneys to do pro bono work for families who are priced out of the legal market, and recommend evidence-based solutions to policymakers.
Our sister nonprofit organization, the Arkansas Access to Justice Foundation, funds the state’s two civil legal aid organizations: The Center for Arkansas Legal Services and Legal Aid of Arkansas. Together, their lawyers help more than 13,000 Arkansans yearly with knowing and enforcing their rights and by being their voice in court. Through these approaches, we all work together to achieve fairness and make sure nobody with a legal problem is excluded from justice.