How can better access to legal help be provided?
9 mins read

How can better access to legal help be provided?

The Courier Journal, together with the League of Women Voters of Louisville and the Louisville Bar Association identified the following questions to ask Court of Appeals Judicial candidates in District 4, Divisions 1 and 2. Every voter in Jefferson County will vote for a judge in each division. We asked for answers in 200 words or fewer.

Use this election guide for judicial races to help you in the voting booth. Remember, judges are nonpartisan elected officials, which means you cannot rely on party lines when casting your vote.

If you missed the Judicial Forum that also featured our Court of Appeals Candidates you can watch that here. The link takes you directly to the Court of Appeals portion of the video.

What can be done to provide adequate access to legal help for all citizens? What changes need to be made specifically?

District 4, Division 1

Audra Jean Eckerle

Audra J. Eckerle

“The Courts are public institutions, and public access to the Courts is open, encouraged and vital. We are fortunate in Louisville to have an excellent group of public defenders to represent all citizens charged with criminal offenses free of charge. We also have a dedicated Legal Aid Society to provide free help in some civil cases. The Judges have worked for years with other justice partners to prepare forms for pro se litigants to use when they want to represent themselves. That effort is ongoing. Court costs, filing charges and expungement fees are already waived for people who cannot afford to pay. Regardless of circumstances, everyone deserves justice.”

Tricia Frances Lister

Tricia Frances Lister

“In many ways this is much more a legislative question than a judicial one – Legal Aid and the Public Defenders need better funding. Lawyers providing pro bono help do some to fill the gap, but the funding needs to be there for the organizations that are meant to provide these services.Using Zoom court and telephonic court for routine court dates also helps reduce the cost to lawyers and litigants, which ultimately makes the process more affordable. The Jefferson County Public Law Library is an excellent resource for people who want to do some of their own research to understand what the laws are. But, honestly, the most important thing is to secure funding for the already existing organizations and to offer the people who work for those organizations respect.”

More:Judges are the referees of our legal system and must remain impartial on the bench

District 4, Division 2

McKenzie Cantrell

McKenzie Cantrell

“I have spent most of my career working for a nonprofit organization that represents low income individuals. I have seen through my clients’ experiences the difficulty some people have getting justice when they are wronged, especially if they do not speak English. I suggest the following minimum changes: Remote court appearances-What was once a short term pandemic solution needs to become permanent with technology upgrades to courtrooms to support it. Improved language access-Our language interpreters are overworked and underpaid. They need our help to be sure non- English speaking people can strategize with their attorneys and be heard. Trauma informed staff-People in court are likely going through the worst time in their lives, such as being charged with a crime, being the victim of a crime, going through a divorce, etc. It takes training to deal consistently with people in crisis, so we have to support attorneys and court staff with those tools.”

Annette Karem

Annette Karem

“A defendant in a criminal case is entitled to an attorney and provided one by the court if they are found indigent. In civil actions no such guarantee exists. However, a litigant who must act as their own attorney due to any number of issues, is at a great disadvantage when the other side is represented by counsel. Louisville is fortunate to have many valuable services available in these situations including those provided by the University of Louisville Ackerson Law Clinic, Legal Aid and countless pro bono hours donated by local attorneys. The legislature should prioritize funding to entities such as Legal Aid and the Ackerson Law Clinic. I would encourage all lawyers to donate their time to disadvantaged litigants.”

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