Earlier this year, Akilah Browne and Jennifer Kroman co-founded FurtherJustice Foundation with one main goal: to support community-based civil legal service programs working to increase access to justice, power and equity for underrepresented individuals and communities.
We are excited to announce our first call for applications for our Legal Accelerator Grant, which will support community-based organizations in creating or expanding client-centered civil legal service programs where there is a scarcity of legal help for underserved and/or low-income communities.
Why is FurtherJustice focused on civil legal services?
Watching TV and the movies, we all have heard the phrase “you have the right to an attorney and if you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you.” This guarantee, however, only applies in criminal cases. If you are facing a threat to your life in other ways, like deportation, eviction, crippling debt, or a denial of government benefits, then you generally do not have the right to a lawyer unless you can afford to hire one. Having a lawyer for civil legal issues can make all the difference. For example, although more than 75% of all immigrants face deportation with no lawyer, those with a lawyer are up to 10 times more likely to establish their right to remain in the United States than those without a lawyer. Similarly, before New York City established a right to counsel for tenants, only 1% of tenants were represented in housing court, compared to 95% of landlords. Now, 84% of tenants represented by counsel have been able to remain in their homes, avoiding homelessness and destabilization.
Despite its proven necessity, our justice system does little to ensure that low-income people can secure a lawyer in civil cases. The most recent report released by Legal Services Corporation on the access to justice gap estimates that nearly a million low-income people who seek help for civil legal problems will be turned away, and countless more will never even take that initial step of trying to find help. The lack of access to attorneys and legal resources further destabilizes Black and Latinx communities that have historically experienced disenfranchisement and oppression and are disproportionately impacted by poverty.
Through our Legal Accelerator Grants, FurtherJustice seeks to put attorneys in community-based organizations where there is a scarcity of legal help so that low-income individuals can more readily access the assistance they need. We will work to help balance the scales of civil justice so that the justice system works for those most disenfranchised – not only with our grantee partners, but also by amplifying the call and mobilizing public and private funders to more fully resource civil legal aid in a myriad of ways.
The Legal Accelerator Grant
FurtherJustice created the Legal Accelerator Grant program to assist early-stage civil legal initiatives by coupling multi-year funding of up $375,000 with individualized programmatic assistance. Our approach to the Grant is guided by three main pillars:
Community-based organizations applying this year must be located in CT, NJ or NY (excluding the five boroughs) and seek to provide client-centered legal services as a tool for empowering underserved and/or low-income communities.
We are excited to partner with and support exceptional organizations that are aligned with our mission of increasing access to justice, power and equity for underrepresented individuals and communities.