Identifying the Civil Needs of New Mexicans

The Commission spent its first two years, 2004 and 2005, researching the civil legal needs of low income New Mexicans using Justice Gap studies conducted by the Legal Services Corporation, information provided by New Mexico legal aid providers, and town hall hearings around the state where the public, legal aid providers, social service agencies, court officials, judges and lawyers provided information to Commissioners. The Commission provided this information to the New Mexico Supreme Court in this Report and Recommendations.

The Commission continues to work with providers and national organizations to understand the civil legal needs of New Mexicans. Ongoing data collection is a consideration in the proposed Justice for All Plan that the Commission is currently developing.

NM Supreme Court Rules Supporting Access to Justice

The Commission has made several recommendations about rule changes to the New Mexico Supreme Court. These rule-change recommendations were designed to increase civil legal resources and attorney representation for people who are not able to afford an attorney.

Limited Scope Representation (NMRA 16-102(C))

Recognizing that many people do not need full scale representation to help them with their legal issue and that limited scope representation can be a cost-effective way to ensure people have access to legal resources, the Commission advocated for language in Rule 16-102(C) that allows attorneys to provide limited representation. This can include drafting documents or appearing on behalf of a client at a particular hearing or proceeding without representing the client in all aspects of the case. This has allowed middle-income clients who are not eligible for legal service representation but who do not have the means to hire an attorney for full scale representation to access an attorney for various stages of their cases where they most need help.

Limited License to Practice with a Legal Service Organization (NMRA 15-301.2)

The Commission also advocated for Rule 15-301.2. This rule allows attorneys who are or have been licensed in another state or who have an inactive New Mexico license to obtain a limited license to practice in New Mexico if they are working in conjunction with a legal services agency. This allows New Mexico legal services agencies to collaborate with attorneys in other states who have expertise in a particular legal area. It also allows attorneys who are new to New Mexico or retired to provide pro bono services through legal services agencies without needing to become relicensed in New Mexico. This has expanded the pool of pro bono attorneys available to assist legal service agency clients.