Reps. Bill Foster (IL-11), Joe Kennedy III (MA-4) and Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai joined LSC on October 15 for a virtual forum on ways of expanding access to justice for low-income Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
LSC Board Chair John G. Levi delivered welcoming remarks and Vice Chair Father Pius Pietrzyk interviewed Chris Arnade, author of “Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America.” His work looks at the resilience of what he calls “America's Back Row”—those who lack the credentials and advantages to get ahead.
Following that, experts from business and law discussed how the “digital divide” results in unequal access to justice and what solutions exist for bridging this gap. The panelists included Geoffrey C. Blackwell, Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel, AMERIND; Larry Irving, President and CEO, The Irving Group; former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, Founding Executive Director, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System; FCC Chair Pai; and Kate White, Access to Services Manager and Attorney, Legal Aid of West Virginia’s Charleston Office.
Reps. Kennedy and Foster both shared why access to justice is so important to their constituents. Daniel E. Kimble, Director of the West Virginia Access to Justice Commission, and Dean John E. Taylor, West Virginia University College of Law, also provided remarks during the forum.
A second panel focused on the challenges of providing legal services during COVID-19 to individuals affected by opioid use disorder. Civil legal issues frequently arise for the more than two million Americans suffering from these disorders and their families. These include problems related to child support and custody, child abuse and neglect, guardianship, domestic violence, housing, health benefits and employment. The panelists included Brandon George, Director, Indiana Addiction Issues Coalition; Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush; Lois Vance, MAT Clinic Manager, Cabin Creek Health Clinic; and Brendan Wood, Equal Justice Fellow, Legal Aid of West Virginia.
LSC Board Member Frank Neuner provided closing remarks for the forum.