Includes findings and recommendations for expanding access to justice for low-income people in the state.

An independent judicial system that can provide parties involved in a dispute with a forum for a fair hearing is essential to a free, democratic society. Moreover, to assure fairness, the hearing must be governed by consistent rules and procedures with protections in place to safeguard the rights of all parties. As our legal system has evolved to meet the increasingly complex array of interpersonal, familial, moral, ethical and business issues of the modern day, representation by counsel has become crucial to guaranteeing that these rights and protections are afforded equally. Without legal representation, parties often may not understand the full ramifications of their decisions.

However, the economic reality in Rhode Island and across the nation is that accessing legal services has become a financial hurdle for most and an impassable roadblock for others. In Rhode Island, there are a number of state and community-based agencies, as well as individuals, that provide reduced fee or no fee legal services to assist individuals and families. Yet, despite the best efforts by these agencies and individuals, the demand for affordable legal services significantly outweighs the resources available.