Report: State Failing To Meet Legal Needs Of The Poor

Feb 21, 2013

Dr. Jim Squires, along with members of the state's legal community, held a press conference in Concord today.
Credit Todd Bookman / NHPR

A new report titled 'The Justice Gap' finds that low income New Hampshire residents lack access to even basic legal services.

The report estimates that more than 60% of civil cases in the state involve people representing themselves. And they do so because they don’t have access to lawyers and paralegals.

In complicated matters like child support, custody hearings and benefit claims, advocates say the lack of representation slows down the system and increases court costs. The report also says the lack of legal aid harms the overall economy.

Former Chief Justice and current UNH Law School Dean John Broderick believes the lack of legal services breaks a fundamental promise of the constitution.                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Broderick: “If the justice system in a democratic society is not working well, you don’t really need to ask a lot of other questions.”

The study, which was funded by the New Hampshire Bar, calls for an increase in funding for non-profit legal aid organizations.

State cuts have led to layoffs in recent years. Governor Hassan’s proposed budget seeks to restore some of that money.