Rural Justice Task Force

Through the Rural Justice Task Force, LSC seeks to raise awareness about the civil legal needs of rural residents; profile model programs and approaches to providing effective legal services or information to Americans living in rural or remote communities; and recommend strategies for engaging private attorneys to serve rural clients.

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Background

Rural-designated regions compose nearly 75% of the country. Approximately one out of every five (or 20%) of Americans call a rural community home. These are highly resilient and increasingly diverse regions, with vibrant local economies and many underrated assets. Rural communities serve as principal providers of natural resources, key originators of food supply chains and points of access to tourism and outdoor recreation. 

However, rural areas face unique challenges given factors like geographic and social isolation, the frequent lack of Internet service or technology, the low density of legal-aid and other human service providers, and the distinctiveness of different rural populations. These barriers exacerbate the immense justice gap in rural areas wherein around 10 million rural residents have family incomes below 125% of the federal poverty line. According to LSC’s 2017 Justice Gap Report, 75% of rural households experienced at least one civil legal problem the prior year—including 23% that experienced six or more problems. However, only 22% of rural households contacted legal aid providers for assistance, while 86% received no or inadequate help for their legal issues. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely increase the poverty—and legal needs—confronting rural Americans.

In spring 2021, LSC’s Board of Directors enacted a Rural Justice Task Force to explore challenges associated with providing high-quality legal services in rural and remote areas. Officially launched in December 2021, the Task Force comprises an interdisciplinary group of thought leaders (listed below), including legal aid and human service providers, business and philanthropic leaders, educators, court professionals and members of the judiciary. The mission of the Rural Justice Task Force is to enhance access to justice in rural communities by: 

  • Raising awareness about the rural justice gap; 
  • Profiling model legal service and related programs; 
  • Identify best practices for supporting rural attorneys and serving rural clients; and 
  • Encourage the exchange ideas and conceptualize improvements on topics such as how to recruit and retain attorneys in rural areas, reach people with limited or no Internet or cell phone service, use videoconferencing and other technology to provide services, cultivate effective community partnerships and pro bono initiatives, and build trust with people who live in rural communities. 

To read more about the work of LSC’s other Task Forces, click here.

Project Partners

The national law firm Quarles & Brady LLP is providing invaluable pro bono project assistance to the Task Force, and Ascendium Education Group, Inc., a philanthropy and federal loan guarantor committed to increasing access to and success in post-secondary education and training, is generously supporting the project.

Logos of Quarles and Brady LLP and Ascendium Education Group

Rural Justice Task Force Co-Chairs

Father Pius Pietrzyk, O.P.

LSC Board Vice Chair; Adjunct Professor of Canon Law, Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies)

LSC Board Vice Chair; and Adjunct Professor of Canon Law, Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies)

Rebecca Emily Rapp

LSC Non-Director Member


Non-Director Member of several LSC Board Committees and General Counsel & Chief Privacy Officer, Ascendium Education Group, Inc.

Task Force Working Group Co-Chairs

Rural Justice Task Force Members

Samuel (Sam) David Abel-Palmer
Executive Director, Legal Services Vermont


Darrah Blackwater
Indigenous Law and Policy Fellow, University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law


Elizabeth (Liz) Canney Borer
Associate General Counsel, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies

Aaron Brooks**
General Counsel – Corporate Governance, Bank OZK


Amanda Brown**
Founder and Executive Director, Lagniappe Law Lab
 

Bruce Cameron
Founder and Principal, Cameron Law PLLC
 

Holly Clendenen
Chief Student Services Officer, Southwest Wisconsin Technical College


Erin Dearborn Coryell
Program Officer, Disaster Relief & Recovery, Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies


Ira Foster
General Counsel and Deputy Director, Georgia Legal Services Program


Hon. Michael G. Heavican
Chief Justice, Nebraska Supreme Court


Nalani Fujimori Kaina
Executive Director, Legal Aid Society of Hawai’i


Matt Keenan^
Board Member, Legal Services Corporation;
Partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.


Abigail (Abby) Lawlis Kuzma^ ​
Board Member, Legal Services Corporation;
Halbrook Distinguished Chair of American Government, Taylor University


Thomas M. Maul
Of Counsel, Dvorak Law Group, LLC


Hon. Margaret M. Morrow*
Former U.S. District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Central District of California; Former President & CEO, Public Counsel


Jessie R. Nicholson
CEO, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services


The Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki
Bishop, Diocese of Springfield, Illinois


Anthony (Tony) Pipa
Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development, Center for Sustainable Development, Brookings Institution


Beth Ann Richlen
Executive Director, Wisconsin Judicare


Kevin Ruegg
CEO, Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, Inc.


Jessica Seel
Director of Behavioral Health Initiatives & Workforce Development, South Carolina Office of Rural Health


Michele Statz
Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine and Biobehavioral Health, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus; Affiliate Faculty, University of Minnesota Law School


Hon. Gwendolyn (Gwen) Topping
Associate Judge, Red Cliff Tribal Court; President, Wisconsin Tribal Judges Association


William (Bill) Waddell, Jr.
Partner, Friday, Eldredge & Clark LLP


Adrienne Worthy
Executive Director, Legal Aid of West Virginia

Katherine Alteneder
Consulting Senior Strategic Advisor, Self-Represented Litigation Network


Hon. Joel H. Bolger
Senior Justice, Alaska Court System


Furonda Brasfield
Managing Attorney, The Law Office Furonda Brasfield PLLC


Susan Brooks*
Former U.S. Representative, Indiana's 5th Congressional District


Kristina Bryant
Principal Court Consultant, National Center for State Courts


Scott W. Carlson
Executive Director, Farmers' Legal Action Group


Whitney Kimball Coe
Director of National Programs, Center for Rural Strategies


Jen Cuesta
Rural Pro Bono Program Attorney, Colorado Legal Services


Patrick G. Goetzinger
Partner, Gunderson, Palmer, Nelson and Ashmore, LLP


Matt Hildreth
Executive Director, RuralOrganizing.org


William C. Hubbard
Dean, University of South Carolina School of Law


Brittany K.T. Kauffman
Interim CEO, Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS)


Heidi Khokhar
Executive Director, Rural Development Initiatives, Inc.


David A. Lash
Managing Counsel for Pro Bono and Public Interest Services, O'Melveny & Meyers, LLP


Carol Mitchell
Sr. Court Policy Analyst, Court Services Division/Court Programs Unit, Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts


Karama Neal
Administrator, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, Office of Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture


Tuleah Palmer
CEO, Blandin Foundation


Taier Perlman
​​​​​​
Staff Attorney, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley


Lisa R. Pruitt
Professor of Law, University of California Davis (King Hall)


Kace Rodwell
Staff Attorney, Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, Inc.


Rodolfo "Rudy" Sanchez
Executive Director, DNA People's Legal Services


James R. Silkenat 
Member and Treasurer, World Justice Project Board of Directors

 

Radhika M. Singh
Vice President, Civil Legal Services and Strategic Policy Initiatives, National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA)


Rhonda Taylor 
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Dollar General Corporation


Katherine Un 
Organizing & Advocacy Director, National Young Farmers Coalition


Anne-Louise Wirthlin
Director of Access to Justice and Strategic Collaboration, Tennessee Supreme Court, Administrative Office of the Courts


Anthony Young
Executive Director, Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc.

(^) denote member of the LSC Board of Directors; (*) denotes member of LSC's Leaders Council or (**) Emerging Leaders Council

Additional members of the Quarles & Brady LLP pro bono project team:

  • Cameron Arthur, Associate (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Patrick J. Bitterman, Partner (Chicago, IL)
  • Megan B. Center, Associate (Washington, DC)
  • Theresa DeAngelis, Associate (Washington, DC)
  • Brian K. Fullmer, Associate (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Kaitlyn L. Fydenkevez, Associate (Washington, DC)
  • Madison T. Hartman, Associate (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Jared W. Miller, Associate (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Michael Mostow, Partner (Chicago, IL)
  • Grace Stewart, Associate (Madison, WI)
  • Andrew T. Stoker, Associate (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Shaylynn Veeder, Associate (Phoenix, AZ)

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