On Tuesday, May 8, the N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission hosted the North Carolina Access to Justice Summit. Chief Justice Mark Martin welcomed more than 100 attendees to consider strategies to bridge the access to justice gap for people of low-income and modest means in North Carolina.
This historic Summit featured a keynote address by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht of the Supreme Court of Texas. Chief Justice Hecht traveled to North Carolina to share Texas’ story of success in coming together to ensure adequate funding for equal access to justice for Texans living in poverty and of limited means, while upholding the value of fiscal conservatism.
"Legal services for those in poverty is something our third branch of government has a systemic and institutional interest in," stated Chief Justice Hecht at today's summit. "And it's important that we come together to lend our support."
Additionally, a session of panelists moderated by J. Rich Leonard, dean of Campbell University School of Law, explored ways to bridge the justice gap in North Carolina using lessons learned in Texas. Panelists included Chief Justice Hecht; George V. Hanna III, Member, Moore & Van Allen; Jennifer M. Lechner, Executive Director, N.C. Equal Access to Justice Commission; and McKinley Wooten Jr., Deputy Director, N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts. The panelists discussed how the lack of access to justice in civil cases influences the practice of law in North Carolina and considered how Chief Justice Hecht’s experience may apply to North Carolina.
Dignitaries from all three branches of government were in attendance, including current and former members of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and Court of Appeals, judges, and members of the General Assembly.
At the conclusion of the program, Chief Justice Martin presented Chief Justice Hecht with a Friend of the Court Award recognizing his many contributions in North Carolina and nationally to increase access to justice.
The North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission was established in November 2005 by order of the Supreme Court of North Carolina and is chaired by Chief Justice Mark Martin. The mission of the Commission is to expand access to civil legal representation for people of low income and modest means across North Carolina. The 25-member Commission includes representative stakeholders from across the state, all three branches of government, legal aid communities, client communities, as well as practicing lawyers.