ATJ Board Member Michelle Lucas Shares Her Thoughts on the New Access to Justice Board Priorities

By Michelle Lucas, Sexual Violence Legal Services of the YWCA

Michelle Lucas headshotIn pursuit of the Access to Justice Board’s mission to ensure equal access to the justice system for people facing significant barriers, every two years we re-evaluate our priorities and goals to make sure our work addresses longstanding systemic issues and new barriers that have arisen. The Board recently undertook this re-evaluation process, and is excited to introduce the Access to Justice Board Priorities for fiscal years 2017-2019.

We looked at our previous priorities to determine what progress has been made on existing goals, identified which priorities are ongoing, and brainstormed new ways to address the ongoing priorities. Progress was made in certain areas over the past two years. Highlights include establishing a meaningful web presence for the ATJ Board, adoption of the State Plan, and convening a technology symposium. Our goals that address systemic change, like addressing racial bias and exploring the intersections of the civil, criminal, and juvenile justice systems, require an ongoing commitment. One thing that remains abundantly clear in reviewing our previous priorities is that race remains one of the key driving forces behind inequality in our justice system.

Increasing racial equity and implementing the 2018-2020 State Plan for the Delivery of Legal Services to Low Income People shapes where we want to focus our attention for the coming years. The current political divide in our country reminds us of how important communication and collaboration are to improve the delivery of civil legal services. We want to continue strengthening partnerships not just within civil legal aid but with other parts of the justice system and with community organizations. We will continue to improve our communication and technology efforts to support the expansion of legal services to people and communities that experience poverty and injustice. And we will continue to support the training and development of our state’s justice leaders facilitated by JustLead. I am excited about our new priorities and look forward to seeing how we move the needle on making equity and justice a reality for all.