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Colorado ATJC Releases Special Report on Legal Aid Funding in the West


A newly released report from the Commission reveals Colorado ranks 10th among 14 western states in state funding for legal aid.

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Feb. 15, 2024 (DENVER) — The Colorado Access to Justice Commission today released a report that shows Colorado is falling behind its western neighbors in civil legal aid funding per capita. 

Out of the 14 states examined, Colorado ranked 10th in its per capita funding for legal aid. In Nevada, per capita state funding for legal aid is over four times that of Colorado. Wyoming’s per capita funding is more than three times higher, and New Mexico’s per capita funding is nearly three times higher than Colorado’s. 

“This report paints a sobering picture, showing Colorado lags far behind most western states on legal aid funding,” said Elisa (Emo) Overall, Colorado Access to Justice Commission executive director. “What we know is that no state has all the funding it needs, and Colorado is even farther behind than most. That means low-income folks in our state facing eviction, high medical debt, and challenging immigration proceedings often go unrepresented in civil court due to a lack of resources.”  

The report is based on an analysis of state budget information and appropriations reports, along with information provided by state bar associations, access to justice commission staff, legal services organizations, law librarians, and state budget staff. 

According to the report, general appropriations and court filing fees are two main funding streams for many states. Colorado has $0.73 in state funding for legal aid per capita, a $230 dissolution of marriage filing fee, and a $5 docket fee in domestic cases for legal aid. Nevada, which has the second highest legal aid funding per capita after California, has $4.62 in state funding for legal aid per capita, a $285 average dissolution of marriage filing fee, and a $25 legal aid fee on civil filings. 

This legislative session, the general assembly will be asked to consider establishing an Equal Justice Fund, which would confront the Colorado justice gap by creating a stable fund to support civil legal aid organizations representing Coloradans on issues like domestic violence, elder rights, and homelessness around Colorado. These legal organizations help Coloradans meet their most basic needs, and the funds would be generated from a small increase to civil filing fees.  The Commission supports that bill. 

The Colorado Access to Justice Commission was codified by state law as a commission of the state in 2023, with the mission of expanding access, quality, and fairness in the justice system for all Coloradans. It works to develop and support a range of tools that address barriers people face when experiencing common legal issues such as divorce, eviction or foreclosure, public benefits, and immigration.  


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