Access to Justice Foundation was formed in 1996, but our work started years before. In 1978, the Office of Kentucky Legal Services Programs (OKLSP) was formed with funding from the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to provide training and advocacy toKentucky’s civil legal aid programs. [U.S. Congress created LSC to ensure equal access to justice for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it – it was a bipartisan congressional sponsorship and had the support of the Nixon administration (1974).] OKLSP served a vital role and won many victories for legal aid, including obtaining monies for support of civil legal aid programs through a court filing fee add-on.
In 1996, federal funding for these services was cut. Instead of closing up shop, the civil legal aid directors and a small group of attorneys and business leaders decided that these services were too vital to give up without a fight, and they helped establish the Access to Justice Foundation.
In the beginning, the staff consisted of 2 employees; our mission was fundraising for civil legal aid programs and providing CLE training to legal aid and pro bono attorneys. During our first few years, we were able to initiate a general appropriation for civil legal services in the state budget and double the file fee add-on for civil legal aid programs.
Today, AJF has an Executive Director, 2 full-time attorneys and 1 part-time attorney. We still maintain our mission of raising money for and increasing awareness of civil legal aid, as well as provide training on substantive topics affecting low-income clients – and we have expanded our services to include Kentucky Volunteer Lawyers Program, a collaborative effort with the civil legal aid programs and their pro bono programs to increase the number of pro bono opportunities and attorneys; the Helpline for Older Kentuckians, a toll-free telephone line that offers advice and referrals to Kentucky’s seniors; and Child Advocacy Today (CAT), a medical-legal partnership with theUniversityofKentucky Children’s Clinic.
"Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists...it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status."
-- Lewis Powell, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Justice
A. Our top accomplishments for the past year:
The number of attorneys who reported donating legal services has increased from 16.5 percent in 2011 to 18.6 percent in 2012.
Advocacy efforts from CAT attorneys resulted in a statewide policy change to increase management of childhood diabetes at public schools by trained school personnel.
AJF provides staffing for the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission and hosted a session on the importance of pro bono and civil legal aid at the 2012 Kentucky Bar Association Annual Convention. The included the premiere of “The Power of “One” video, which includes member of the judiciary, private bar and clients discussing the importance of civil legal aid.
AJF participated in the “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Conference,” an annual conference for the benefit of grandparents and offering a wide variety of workshops. AJF also recruited 11 attorneys to give free legal advice to grandparents.
B. Our top goals for the current year:
Fundraise $50,000 for the CAT program in order to sustain legal assistance and advocacy for low-income children suffering from chronic illnesses.
Increase pro bono participation and recognition through events such as the Kentucky Law Update programs and local bar events.
The needy live among us. They are our neighbors, elderly people we see at the store every day, children we see in our elementary schools. For families, poverty is one of the most significant indicators of child well-being as it affects all aspects of a child’s live, from health to education, to safety. The Access to Justice Foundation is a leading statewide poverty law resource and advocacy center in Kentucky dedicated to providing opportunity for quality civil legal aid assistance.
We count our successes from the telephone Legal HelpLine for Older Kentuckians (serving over 1,100 people in 2012 alone), to integrating legal services into the medical setting through ourChild Advocacy Todayprogram at UK’s pediatric clinics serving low income children, to training lawyers forpro bonowork through our KY Volunteer Lawyer Program to providing support and training to Kentucky’s four civil legal aid programs.
I have worked with the legal aid community since 1993. Now, over twenty years later, as we strive to continue and expand an array of services for low-income clients, we face even greater challenges than ever before due to an increase in the unmet need for legal services and substantial cuts in funding. Over the past few years, civil legal aid programs have lost nearly $900,000 in funding and have been forced to reduce their staff by twenty-two statewide. With these drastic downturns in our funding from government sources, and more cuts looming on the horizon –we need your support now more than ever.
I am proud to serve as the director at the Access to Justice Foundation, and I ask for your support of our mission to expand access to the civil justice system to include all Kentuckians. Your donation will helpsupport our low-income medical patients who need assistance in enrolling and retaining their Medicaid coverage. Your donation will help challenge wrongful denials of medically necessary formula and food for a chronically ill child with a birth defect. Your donation will ensure that and elderly caller receives the answers to her legal question, allowing her to stay in her home.
In May 2005, Jacqueline Syers Duncan started helping part-time on the Legal HelpLine for Older Kentuckians. She became full-time at AJF when she was appointed as the Director of the Kentucky Volunteer Lawyer Program in May 2007 to increase the awareness of the need for donated legal services for those who cannot afford an attorney and to increase the number of lawyers willing to donate their legal services. She was the founding legal partner for Child Advocacy Today, a medical-legal partnership with the Kentucky Children’s Hospital, in an effort to promote donated legal services to resolve legal issues affecting the health of children and now serves as its legal director. She is the staff attorney for the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission established by the Supreme Court of Kentucky in October 2010. Prior to joining AJF, Ms. Duncan practiced civil litigation with Jackson Kelly, PLLC. Ms. Duncan earned her law degree at the University of Kentucky College of Law and was a member of the Kentucky Law Journal.
Start Date: December 8, 2008.
Robin R. Cooke is an Attorney for the Access to Justice Foundation inLexington,Kentucky. She is responsible for the operation of the Legal HelpLine for Older Kentuckians at AJF, where she previously worked as a Legal Services Attorney. Robin earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Centre College, in Danville, Kentucky; her Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kentucky and her Juris Doctor from the Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University. Robin is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts for both the Eastern and Western Districts ofKentuckyand the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Robin is a member of the Kentucky Bar Association and the Fayette County Bar Association.
The Kentucky Volunteer Lawyer Program (KyVLP) is the state's first pro bono development project initiated to increase, strengthen and expand pro bono efforts on a statewide basis. In 2005, the Kentucky Bar Association and the Kentucky Supreme Court approved the project to address the growing need for civil legal aid assistance to citizens who cannot otherwise afford legal help. Studies showed that at least 80% of the civil legal needs of low-income citizens are not being met and, for those who seek legal aid, 50% of income- eligible citizens are turned away because of limited staff and financial resources. With funding support primarily from the KBA, the KyVLP strives to meet the legal needs of income-eligible citizens. KyVLP's campaign to "Change the World in 50 Hours" references our aspirational goal of 50 hours of pro bono legal services each year. The rule encourages lawyers to donate at least 50 hours per calendar year of professional legal services to persons of limited means, and/or financial support for organizations whose overall mission and activities are to provide legal assistance to those of limited means.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Copyright © 2014 Blue Grass Community Foundation
499 East High Street, Lexington, KY 40507