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Learn More About the Tennessee Supreme Court Access to Justice Initiative

The Tennessee Supreme Court announced its access to justice initiative in December 2008. The Court saw the growing and urgent civil legal needs in our State. Tennesseans were facing more legal problems caused by unemployment, predatory loans, uninsured medical bills, domestic violence, evictions and foreclosures. The Court created an Access to Justice Commission to steer the initiative. The Court hired an Access to Justice Coordinator that to oversee this work. Today there are three staff at the Administrative Office of the Courts supporting the initiative, led by the Director of Access to Justice.

Defining the Problem

In any year, over one million low-income and vulnerable Tennesseans have a legal problem that would qualify them to get help from legal aid. But there are only about 100 legal aid attorneys in our State. These extremely dedicated legal aid attorneys simply can’t help this many people.

The result is an urgent gap between the need for legal help and available legal resources. The Court is trying to reduce the civil legal needs gap through its access to justice initiative.

Addressing the Problem

The Access to Justice Commission’s mission is to provide collaborative leadership to create solutions and resources that address and eliminate barriers to justice for all. The Commission works closely with bar associations, legal aid providers, legal service organizations, non-profits, courts, faith-based organizations, and community partners to carry out its mission.

The Commission maintains four overarching goals to address the civil legal needs problem in Tennessee:

1. To involve more lawyers and law students.
2. To provide educational opportunities and resources for policymakers, self-represented litigants, the community, lawyers, court personnel, and others.
3. To make the justice system more user friendly.
4. To remove barriers to access to justice, including disability, language, literacy and geography.