The Iowa Supreme Court’s “Access to Justice Commission” has released a report that outlines steps to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged Iowans.
At the beginning of the report, the commission notes the Iowa State Bar Association says that nearly half of all Iowans have difficulty affording a lawyer for basic legal needs.
Commission vice chair Anjie Shutts is a family law attorney in Des Moines. She says she often sees people attempting to represent themselves.
"I think you would be shocked to go into the courthouses and find out how many people are representing themselves," she says. "Access to justice has to be an Iowa value. It should be an Iowa value. And how do we make sure it is valued by all Iowans? Both with funding and how people look at the system."
The report identifies dozens of recommendations and goals. They include recruiting more rural lawyers, creating a veterans legal clinic and developing an app to help people navigate legal issues and resources.
The report also suggests ways to encourage the corporate community in volunteering and charitable giving around access-to-justice issues.
The Iowa Supreme Court created the commission last June with Justice Brent Appel serving as chair.