On May 5, 2015, 30 representatives of Maine’s philanthropic organizations, legal aid providers, and Congressional Delegation met at Maple Hill Farm in Hallowell to discuss access to civil justice for poor and vulnerable Mainers. Facilitated and documented by Good Group Decisions, the gathering yielded a wealth of observations and possible next steps.
Some of the observations from the meeting:
- Baseline information gathered from 2010-2014 reveals that Foundations and United Ways have been generous in supporting civil legal aid—they have given much more than perceived.
- As traditional sources of funding for civil legal aid have been declining, contributions by Maine’s legal and philanthropic communities have been increasing.
- Why does civil legal aid matter? Because it’s a way to help support basic human needs and rights. Because without access to justice for all there is no justice.
- Providing funding for civil legal aid helps some philanthropic organizations achieve their mission.
- Civil legal aid and access to justice are interconnected with many other issues.
Possible next steps identified on May 5:
- Collaboration between those doing the work and those who fund the work.
- Support common ground. Avoid duplicative efforts. Share solutions.
- Increase capacity-building
- Increase role and profile of foundations in influencing public policy
- Educate others about economic and social impact of legal aid.
Stay tuned for more concrete next steps coming in the fall. The planners of the May 5 gathering are working a white paper that will explore how access to justice advocates from both Maine’s philanthropic community and legal aid community can work collectively to achieve shared outcomes.
If readers have any questions or would like more information, please contact Diana Scully, Executive Director, Maine Bar Foundation at email@example.com or (207) 622-3477. The meeting notes are attached below.