Foundation continues to play vital role in Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice

Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice

Donny MacKenzie, immediate past president of The Florida Bar Foundation and the Foundation’s desginee on the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, explains how the Florida Legal Access Gateway will be designed to serve as an online “control tower” directing users to the right destination in terms of legal resources and assistance. Behind him is fellow Commission member Wiliam A. Van Nortwick, who worked with MacKenzie to develop the gateway concept along with Commission member and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid CEO James A. Kowalski. MacKenzie and Van Nortwick were among the speakers Oct. 20 at the Tampa Airport Marriott, where the Florida Justice Technology Center held an informative celebration of its launch of a pilot project in Clay County to test the feasibilty of the system as it is envisioned. The event was part of a meeting of The Florida Bar.

When Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga issued an administrative order Oct. 10 re-establishing the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice and making it permanent, the Florida Supreme Court’s news release recognized The Florida Bar Foundation and The Florida Bar as co-equal partners in the effort to create Florida’s first access to justice commission.

Now a permanent body, the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice counts among its 23 members three past presidents of The Florida Bar Foundation, including Donny MacKenzie of Holland & Knight, the Foundation’s immediate past president and official designee on the commission.

“I’m deeply honored to be asked to continue on the Commission now that it has been made permanent,” said MacKenzie, whose term on the Commission will run through June 30, 2019. “And I believe the members of this body are well-suited to ensure that the progress made over the last two years will continue.”

Kathleen Schin McLeroy, past Foundation president and the recipient of the Foundation’s 2016 Medal of Honor Award, was reappointed to a two-year term. McLeroy will chair the resource evaluation committee, which will inventory federal, state and private funding opportunities and the effect of unmet civil justice needs on Florida’s businesses and economy. The committee also will review and develop funding plans for Commission projects.

William A. Van Nortwick Jr., also a past Foundation president and the 2015 Medal of Honor Award recipient, was reappointed to a one-year term. The permanent Commission has staggered terms to ensure continuity.

Meanwhile, Gregory W. Coleman, a past president of The Florida Bar and current Florida Bar Foundation board member, has been appointed to chair the Commission’s executive committee, and James A. Kowalski Jr., executive director of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, has been reappointed to a two-year term.

Kowalski, MacKenzie and Van Nortwick comprised a workgroup of the original Commission focused on developing its signature project, the Florida Legal Access Gateway (FLAG), a first-of-its-kind online triage system designed to connect individuals with the legal resources they need. As envisioned, the gateway would refer visitors to a wide range of information and service entities including, but not limited to: legal aid organizations, local court self-help centers, free online resources including DIY Florida, Florida’s Elder Law Hotline, law school clinics, law libraries, and The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service.

A FLAG pilot limited to divorces and evictions launched Oct. 20 in Clay County and was set to run through November.

The Foundation provided the initial funding for the Florida Justice Technology Center, which managed the pilot project on the Commission’s behalf, and will continue to provide staff support to the Commission, as it has since its inception.

“Several members of our staff have played key support roles and will continue to do so,” said Foundation CEO Bruce B. Blackwell. “Providing greater access to justice is our mission, pure and simple, so our goals and those of the Commission are one and the same.”

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