Concern for the unmet civil legal rights of the poor has prompted the Michigan Judicial Conference to issue a challenge to judges: Contribute to the State Bar's Access to Justice (ATJ) Fund to help the disadvantaged.
In making the challenge, the Honorable Kathryn J. Root, Chair of the Michigan Judicial Conference noted that judges were very aware of the difficulties faced by people who come to court without attorneys. "It is especially troublesome if that disadvantage is caused because a party is too poor to afford an attorney," Judge Root said. She praised all who have contributed generously in the past and urged all Michigan judges to make contributions to the ATJ Fund a priority. "Strengthening the availability of legal assistance for Michigan's low-income individuals and families is critical because of the continued erosion of federal dollars," Judge Root added.
The Michigan Probate Judges Association, the Michigan District Judges Association, and the Michigan Judicial Association are all taking part in the challenge. The judicial group with the highest percentage of contributing members will be presented with an award and recognized at the State Bar's Annual Meeting in September 2005.
To date, the ATJ Fund has raised over $5 million in cash, pledges and planned gifts through the generosity of lawyers, judges and other donors throughout Michigan. The Michigan State Bar Foundation, which receives and manages donations to the ATJ Fund, distributed early $900,000 to non-profit legal service providers in 2004. Contributions made to the ATJ Fund between September 1, 2004 and August 31, 2005 will count toward the challenge. To make a contribution, please call Lesa Smith at 800.968.1442 ext. 6307 or visit www.atjfund.org.