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TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court is accepting public comment on a proposed rule that directs chief judges of the Court of Appeals and the state’s 31 judicial districts to each designate two liaisons to work with the court’s Access to Justice Committee to advance its efforts to remove barriers and promote equal access to justice throughout the state.

The court will accept public comment on the proposed rule until 5 p.m. Monday, July 27. Comment may be made to with “Rule 1403” in the subject line.

Proposed Supreme Court Rule 1403: Access to Justice Liaisons seeks to assure access to justice is promoted uniformly at all levels of the judicial branch. It requires the Court of Appeals and each judicial district to appoint two people—one judge and one court employee—to serve as local liaisons to the Access to Justice Committee.

“By designating access to justice liaisons in each judicial district and the Court of Appeals, we hope to provide a conduit for sharing information, seeking feedback, and providing a network for discussing access to justice issues all courts face,” said District Judge Erica Schoenig, chair of the Access to Justice Committee. “Any effort to remove barriers to access to justice must include all courts to be successful, and this moves us in that direction.”

Schoenig serves in the 10th Judicial District, which is Johnson County.

The idea for access to justice liaisons came from the committee's review of a recent study conducted by the National Center for State Courts funded by a State Justice Institute grant. The report from the study, Kansas Judicial Branch Assessment of Self-Represented Litigant Services, emphasized the need for collaboration within the courts to further the adoption of high-quality self-help services.

The report also noted the shifting user base in courts, where there are fewer parties in civil cases who are represented by lawyers. Judges and staff can recommend resources for these self-represented litigants, but they are prohibited from giving legal advice. The liaisons will help all courts and the Access to Justice Committee better understand these needs and how to address them.

The 18-member Access to Justice Committee is made up of attorneys, judges, and laypeople. It was created by Kansas Supreme Court Rule 1401 for the purpose of making recommendations to the court about reducing barriers to equal access to justice, improving legal services delivery, and increasing resources available for legal services to low-income litigants in civil cases.

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