Pennsylvania IOLTA Board Releases Report on the Results of the PA Access to Justice Act

The Pennsylvania IOLTA Board has released a report entitled, Results of the Pennsylvania Access to Justice Act, A Report on the Filing-Fee Surcharge Law, FY 2004-2008.

This report, related to funding received as a result of the Access to Justice statute (42 Pa. C. S. Section 4901 et. seq.), summarizes the results produced across Pennsylvania by the Access to Justice Act’s filing-fee surcharge. It begins by outlining the needs the AJA was enacted to address. The report then describes the many ways the legal assistance providers comprising the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network have strategically applied those dollars to maximize the benefits produced for low-income people, communities, taxpayers and courts across Pennsylvania.

In July 2002, the Access to Justice Act (AJA) was enacted with strong bipartisan support by the Pennsylvania legislature and signed into law by Governor Schweiker. The statute established a $2 surcharge on filings in state courts. The funds from the surcharge were designated to provide civil legal assistance to low-income Pennsylvanians without charge. In 2006, the AJA was extended for a second five-year period; it is now scheduled to sunset November 1, 2012.

The report finds that the AJA has had a significant, positive impact on low-income families and their communities across the state, especially upon some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians: children, seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans. In addition, legal aid offices and the civil court system have been made more efficient and effective as a result of the AJA funding.

The AJA has provided a stable, predictable funding stream totaling $36.5 million from fiscal years 2004-2008, providing on average about 18 percent of the total support received by Legal Aid providers in Pennsylvania. As a result, it has enabled Legal Aid advocates to begin narrowing the “justice gap” between the overwhelming legal needs people face every day and the resources available to meet them.

Perhaps even more significant are the intangible results that have been achieved. The report found that AJA-supported Legal Aid stabilizes families, maintains communities, and makes society safer. It saves taxpayers money and helps prevent legal problems that would otherwise further clog the court system. Legal Aid helps people to become self-sufficient and participate effectively in society.

View the Report from the IOLTA Board

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