A blue-ribbon panel will look into how to fund civil legal help in Florida more reliably for the poor and working poor.
The 27 members of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice have their work cut out for them with a number of funding sources having dried up in recent years.
Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga ordered the group’s creation on Monday, in a ceremony in the Supreme Court building’s rotunda. The working group “will be the major initiative of his two-year administration,” a press release said.
Legal services providers, however, have suggested forming public-private partnerships with major corporations or seeking large contributions from wealthy benefactors, similar to a gift of $100 million from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark, N.J., public school system in 2010.
“We’ll see,” Labarga said. “It’s our hope that they come up with solutions … Our intention is to lock up all these smart people in a room, let them knock it around and see what they come up with.”
Criminal defendants are guaranteed legal representation even if they can’t afford it, but that’s not the case with civil matters, such as foreclosure, child custody or unpaid wages
People who can’t afford an attorney in Florida must turn to a network of legal aid groups, many of which are overworked and underfunded.