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Leah Ward Sears

Leah Ward Sears

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"The concept of equal justice for all is the driving force behind this initiative," said Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears.

"We are all stakeholders in closing the justice gap.

If the system does not work equally for all, then it does not work for any of us."The study revealed that more than 60 percent of the state's low and moderate income households have at least one civil legal need each year.

Civil cases, such as foreclosures or divorce lawsuits, are different from criminal charges.Consumer problems - such as abusive contract terms - were among the most prevalent legal complaints.

Other issues ranging from housing, health, employment and family law issues also figured prominently.More than 90 percent of the 1,500 people interviewed for the survey said they didn't obtain legal help for their complaint.

Of those, 75 percent tried to resolve the problem on their own.

Another 16 percent did nothing.

Some 9 percent obtained some form of help from a lawyer.The study also showed that low income residents in households making less than $30,000 a year and moderate income residents in households earning no more than $60,000 a year face, altogether, more than six million legal needs each year.Charlie Lester, a pro bono attorney with Atlanta law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, said there's no way to ensure each case is assigned its own attorney - and there's no telling if that will ever happen.But he and others said lawmakers, legal leaders and others must join forces to seek solutions."In Georgia, it's not just a lack of funding," said Sears.

"It's a lack of will."
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