Access to Justice Petition Filed with Fla. Supreme Court Seeks to Fund Legal Services for the Poor

On June 16, 2014, the Access to Justice Petition was filed with the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of 522 Florida bar member petitioners seeking increased access to legal services for the poor.  The Petition was filed by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul G. Cantero of the law firm White & Case, who was retained pro bono by the Florida Justice Institute and Florida Legal Services.  The Petition requests an increase in bar dues from $265 to $365, with any dues collected above the current cap to be used to fund civil legal services for the poor.  Pursuant to the governing rules, the Petition was first filed with the Florida Bar in February 2014.

If the Petition is granted, it would result in raising approximately $10 million annually for struggling legal aid programs across the state.  The Petition also includes a lengthy Appendix, which contains all the supporting materials cited in the Petition.  This set of Frequently Asked Questions further explains the need for this Petition and the process surrounding it.  You can also see older press coverage of this issue here and here, and newer press coverage here and here.

The Petitioners have issued a Press Release to announce the filing.

Below is a video of Raoul Cantero explaining why the Petition is necessary.

Oral argument before the Florida Supreme Court was held on December 2, 2014.  You can watch a video of the argument here.

July 10, 2015 Update: Unfortunately, the Court denied the Petition in a 4-3 decision.  Justice Lewis’s dissent began this way: “It is truly an unfortunate day for Florida as a majority of this Court professes to be protecting the legal needs of many Floridians while it is actually rejecting the very simple availability of a limited tool to provide possible relief and a safety net to at least some most in need.”  A motion for rehearing was also denied, over the dissent of Justices Quince and Perry.

This is just the beginning of FJI’s effort to address the access to justice crisis occurring around the state.  We, in partnership with other organizations, will continue the fight to expand civil legal services to the poor, to ensure that the concept of “equal justice under law” is not just a hollow phrase.

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