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Opening Courtroom Doors: Access to Justice in Ohio : Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor
Supreme Court of Ohio
The Ohio State Law Journal, working collaboratively with the Ohio Legal Assistance
Foundation, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law’s Public Interest Law
Foundation (PILF), and the Moritz Pro Bono Research Group (PBRG), is pleased to
present “Opening Courtroom Doors: Access to Justice in Ohio,” featuring keynote
speaker Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
In 1951, when addressing the New York Legal Aid Society, Justice Billings Learned Hand
admonished that, “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment:
Thou shalt not ration justice.” Ohio, like her sister states, may now be facing a crisis in
access to justice as her courts, her Public Defender, and her legal aid societies str
with dramatically reduced funding. Yet, courtroom doors must remain open and
accessible to every Ohioan regardless of their economic status.
In 2006, the Supreme Court of Ohio led the State in addressing Access to Justice issues
by convening a Task Force on Pro Se and Indigent Litigants. The task force recognized
that “access to justice is a fundamental right that is not being afforded to all citizens,
especially indigent and pro se litigants” and, in response, crafted recommendations
intended to improve access to justice in Ohio. Shortly after the task force completed
its work, the Great Recession engulfed the country and the state. Today, nearly 1.5
million Ohioans live below the poverty level; courts contend with limited resources and
increased numbers of pro se and limited English proficient litigants; and Ohio’s legal aid
societies have lost nearly 30 percent of their staff attorneys statewide since the start of
Ohio must initiate a new and innovative dialogue about our justice system so that
Ohio can fulfill the promise of our Pledge of Allegiance: justice for all. To launch
this conversation, Opening Courtroom Doors: Access to Justice in Ohio will engage
key stakeholders in a thoughtful and challenging discussion on the future of Access
to Justice in the state of Ohio. More specifically, this conference will feature panel
discussions addressing approaches other states are taking to improve Access to Justice
issues, the unique Access to Justice issues in Ohio, and the ethical obligations attorneys
face in ensuring Access to Justice in Ohio.
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