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PNS Daily Newscast - October 29, 2020 

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More Civil Justice Sought for Kentucky's Poor

October 22, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky.- Kentucky Supreme Court justices say the need for legal aid in civil matters like divorce, adoption and foreclosure in the state is great, and it's growing. They hope a new panel, the Kentucky Access to Justice Commission, will help more low-income citizens get the legal assistance they need. A 25-member panel is being organized to address the growing number of people coming before the courts without an attorney.

Jeff Been, executive director of the Legal Aid Society in Louisville, says the state's four civil legal aid programs are able to help only a portion of those seeking assistance, and he hopes the commission can change that.

"Any Kentuckian ought to be able to access the court without regard to economic status, and this is an opportunity to bring awareness to that need, and to bring resources that may be needed in order to ensure that access is an equal justice concept."

Been notes legal aid programs in Kentucky help the most vulnerable access the courts, particularly in matters of shelter and finances.

"For example, when a family is threatened with eviction or foreclosure, and is at risk for losing shelter. When a senior is at risk of losing a government benefit which sustains them, whether that's a Medicare benefit or Medicaid benefit, or simply a retirement or pension benefit."

Been says Kentucky Legal Aid closes about 24,000 cases each year, and provides assistance to 68,000 low-income families who have nowhere else to turn. But, he cautions, those numbers don't tell the whole story.

"While we're doing a terrific job in reaching out and helping those 68,000 families, for every person that we're helping, we're turning away another person. And, that's because of lack of resources."

The commission, which will begin work in January, will work with the state and local bar associations, legal aid providers, elected officials and other community leaders.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY