PURPOSES OF ACCESS JUSTICE, PSC
Access Justice is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes as specified in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, including for such purposes, the making of distributions to corporations that qualify as exempt corporations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code. The purposes of this corporation are:
1. To offer and provide quality and affordable legal representation, counsel and litigation on a wide variety of legal issues involving and/or affecting the public interest (collectively referred to as “legal services”) to poor, distressed and underprivileged individuals, disadvantaged minorities and nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status as charitable organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (collectively referred to as “unserved clients”) at no cost (Pro Bono Publico) and/or at significantly-reduced and affordable hourly rates or low-cost negotiated fees (Low Bono Publico) that are considerably below-market compared to the rates/fees typically offered and provided for similar legal services by attorneys in private law practice.
2. To offer opportunities of receiving quality legal services to unserved clients whose limited financial resources exceed a level that would allow them to qualify for free legal services available through government-funded programs at the state or federal levels, but not substantial enough to allow them to obtain through private law firms the quality and affordable legal services they need and deserve in order to defend their interests and secure their rights at law.
3. To promote and help secure easier access to the fair, effective and cost-efficient resolution of legal disputes and to basic community resources by all citizens, regardless of their gender, race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, age, class, creed, national origin, ethnicity or economic means, through greater and equal access to various institutions and officials such as: the police; the courts; financial institutions; traditional councils; arbitration panels and mediation/alternative dispute services; social workers; prison officials; family support services, immigration services; community leaders; health care officials; and others.
4. To engage in significant public interest litigation for unserved clients, meaning litigation designed to present a position on behalf of the public at large on matters of public interest, at the state and federal levels.
5. To encourage, and work in cooperative ways with law schools and private Bars to provide opportunities through which law students and graduates (including recent and/or older graduates who are retired or semi-retired attorneys) can participate meaningfully with Access Justice as part of a public interest commitment to providing quality and affordable legal services to unserved individuals who cannot access free legal assistance and who lack sufficient economic means to hire attorneys from private firms.
6. To provide for and support the efficient and wide sharing of various legal resources and research information, including respected experts, written materials and data bases, with individuals and non-profit corporations throughout the country seeking to resolve similar legal issues, but that lack sufficient resources to independently conduct such research, hire such experts or develop such materials and data bases .
7. To support the preparation of and/or conduct where possible non-partisan research, educational and informational activities to increase public awareness of important legal and social justice issues, including but not limited to those concerning juvenile delinquency; adoption; women’s rights; senior and youth law; victims’ rights; students’ rights; immigration rights; environmental law; consumer protection law; nonprofit corporations; contract law; real estate law (including financing/mortgage issues); family law; American Indian rights; intellectual property law; mediation and alternative dispute resolution; and others involving social justice matters.
8. To work with Minnesota and other state Bars and other professional associations, community cooperatives, veterans organizations, voluntary social associations (such as the Rotary, Lions and Elks Clubs and others), businesses and non-profit corporations committed to social justice, in order to help promote and improve the delivery of quality and affordable legal services to unserved clients that normally cannot access or afford legal assistance when needed.
9. To work with law schools, private Bars, institutes and institutions, and international corporations to inspire law, paralegal and university students and graduates toward a life-long commitment to social justice, public interest and public service, no matter where their career paths may take them, in order to encourage them to work at jobs and in voluntary commitments aimed at (1) providing quality and affordable legal services to unserved individuals and (2) creating a more just and humane world.
10. To establish various publication, internet, blogging, social media and related resources which advance the mission, vision and purposes of this corporation.
11. To engage in such other activities and efforts relevant to and/or consistent with the charitable and educational purposes of this corporation.
REPRESENTATION POLICY OF ACCESS JUSTICE, PSC
Access Justice, PSC (“Access Justice”) requires that the representation of its clients, and the selection of those clients, conforms to all relevant state and federal law, including the Internal Revenue Code, to the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct and to the purposes of the corporation stated in Article III of the Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation. This policy is intended to supplement but not replace any applicable state or federal laws or rules of ethics applicable to the practice of law and nonprofit corporations.
Programs and Policies
Section 2.01. Responsibility. The responsibility for the policies and programs of Access Justice rests with the Board of Directors, or a committee so delegated by the Board of Directors, that is representative of the public interest and that is neither controlled by employees or persons who litigate on behalf of the corporation nor by any corporation that is not itself a corporation described under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Board of Directors, or a committee so delegated by the Board of Directors, will annually review the policies and programs of Access Justice, including this Representation Policy, to ensure that the corporation is meeting its stated purposes.
Section 2.02. Delegation. The Board of Directors will not delegate or assign any decision entailing the exercise of professional judgment to an individual who is not a professional licensed to practice law and in good standing with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota or the highest state court of any other state in which Access Justice is duly authorized to conduct its activities.
Selection of Clients
Section 3.01. Selection. Access Justice will select clients and provide legal assistance on the basis of whether the legal services required by the client will further the stated purposes of the corporation as set forth in Article III of Access Justice’s Amended and Restated Articles of Incorporation. Potential clients will go through a screening and interview process to determine their eligibility by providing information requested in the Eligibility and Request for Legal Services Forms. The Eligibility and Request for Legal Services Forms are available to potential clients online at Access Justice’s website and at its office(s).
Section 3.02. Specific criteria. Access Justice will serve poor, distressed and underprivileged individuals, and disadvantaged minorities; certain qualified nonprofit organizations; and certain qualified small businesses (collectively referred to as “unserved clients”). Individuals represented may be those (1) who are unable to secure either free legal services offered by government-funded programs or private legal representation to defend their interests and secure their rights at law and (2) whose family income is between 125% and 350% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. If and when any nonprofit organization is represented, Access Justice will represent only those that have tax-exempt status as charitable organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. If and when any small business is represented, Access Justice will represent only those that are owned by individuals who themselves qualify for legal services as individuals.
Section 3.03. Likelihood of fee awards. Access Justice will not make decisions on which clients to represent based on the likelihood or probability, however remote, that the clients will be able to pay fees nor on the likelihood or probability that a court or administrative agency will order fees paid by an opposing party. Access Justice will cease to handle representations with a strong possibility of a fee award if these become economically feasible for the private parties involved in such matters.
Section 3.04. Inability to secure representation from either a government-funded legal services program or by retention of a private law firm. Access Justice will represent unserved clients in matters in which the clients are unable to secure legal representation through either a government-funded legal services program or by retaining a private law firm because their limited incomes exceed a level that would allow them to qualify for free legal services available through government-funded programs at the state or federal levels, but are not substantial enough to allow them to obtain legal services through private law firms. Access Justice will not represent clients in matters in which a court-awarded or client-paid fee is possible if Access Justice believes the clients have a sufficient commercial or financial interest in the outcome of the litigation to justify retention of a private law firm. Access Justice will represent unserved clients in matters in which representation is not ordinarily provided by private law firms because the cases are not economically feasible for such firms.
Access Justice will provide legal representation, counsel and litigation in areas of law that include but are not limited to: collections and credit, consumer protection, contracts, criminal defense for adults and juveniles, disability, elder law, employment, family (divorce, support, adoption), government benefits, employment issues, housing, healthcare, non-profit organizations, wills, trusts, healthcare directives, immigration, constitutional and civil rights. Access Justice’s legal representation will include litigation at the state and federal levels in the above areas of law where the poor, distressed and underprivileged are typically susceptible to the unlawful actions of others and are unable to effectively defend their rights or secure their rights at law.
Section 5.01. Direct payment. All fees awarded by a court or administrative agency, or paid by clients, will be paid directly to Access Justice, rather than to individual staff attorneys or any independent contract attorneys working with Access Justice for compensation.
Section 5.02. Amount of client-paid fees. Client-paid fees will not exceed the actual cost incurred in each case, meaning the salaries, overhead and other costs fairly allocable to the representation in question.
Section 5.03. Fees or rates for services. The goal and intention of Access Justice is to secure adequate funding that will enable it to provide legal services to 80% or more of its clients at no cost (pro bono) and to no more than 20% of its clients at significantly-reduced and affordable hourly rates not to exceed $99 per hour or low-cost negotiated fees (low bono) that are considerably below-market compared to the rates/fees typically offered and provided for by attorneys in private law practice.
Section 5.04. Fees as a proportion of operating costs. The total amount of all attorneys’ fees (court awarded and those received from clients) will not be more than 50% of the total cost of operations of Access Justice’s legal functions, calculated over a 5-year period.
Section 5.05. Retainer. Access Justice may accept a retainer from paying clients, and earned fees and costs may be charged against that retainer, with any balance remaining after the conclusion of the representation refunded to the client.
Section 5.06. Referral fees. Where clients are able to retain private representation and therefore do not qualify for representation by Access Justice, Access Justice will neither refer clients to private attorneys nor accept referral fees from private attorneys for recommending clients.
Section 6.01. Staff attorneys. All staff attorneys and other employees will be compensated on a straight salary basis, not exceeding reasonable salary levels and not established by reference to any fees received in connection with the cases they have handled.
Section 6.02. Private attorneys. If the services of a private attorney are retained by Access Justice to assist it in particular cases, that attorney will either provide such services without compensation or will be compensated, as an independent contractor, according to negotiated and reasonable fixed fees or hourly rates based upon a salary level comparable to that of a similarly experienced Access Justice staff attorney.
Section 6.03. Referral fees. Access Justice will not accept referral fees from private attorneys for recommending clients who do not qualify for representation by Access Justice because they are able to obtain private representation.
Section 7.01. Attorney-client relationship. The attorney-client relationship formed between the Access Justice and its clients will be governed by a Retainer Agreement.
Section 7.02. Withdrawal. Once undertaking the representation of a client through litigation, any Access Justice staff attorney, independent contract attorney or independent volunteer attorney (the latter two sometimes collectively referred to as “network attorneys”) will not withdraw from the representation because the litigant is unable to pay the contemplated fee. Where a client is able to pay and/or continue to pay a contemplated fee or ongoing retainer and, at the time of entering into a Retainer Agreement, has represented its ability to pay such fee and/or ongoing retainer, Access Justice’s continued representation may be terminated based upon a material breach of the terms of that Retainer Agreement.