Personal-injury attorney Patricia Cruz Fragoso of Danbury’s Ventura Law has been appointed to serve on the Connecticut Judicial Branch’s Access to Justice Commission.
Chaired by Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Maria A. Kahn and Superior Court Judge Ingrid L. Moll, the commission is developing recommendations to help ensure equal access for a range of residents, including low- and moderate-income individuals, those with physical or developmental disabilities, the elderly, people with limited English proficiency and ethnic, cultural and racial minorities.
During its Nov. 20 meeting, the commission reviewed recommendations from the Governor’s Task Force to Improve Access to Legal Counsel in Civil Matters.
The task force’s first major recommendation is to establish a statutory right to civil council in cases involving restraining orders; child custody and deportation proceedings; and defense of residential evictions—and to make funding available to support a program offering civil representation to people in need.
The task force noted that Connecticut residents face four major impediments to gaining access to counsel: “(1) inadequate funding of legal services for the poor; (2) lack of affordable attorneys for individuals who are ineligible for legal aid, but unable to afford market rate representation; (3) geographical, cultural, institutional, informational and other impediments facing those in need of legal help; (4) bureaucratic impediments that cause routine needs to devolve into legal problems.”
Cruz Fragoso said she was honored to serve on the commission “to give a voice to those who face racial, socioeconomic and English proficiency challenges,” which can contribute to the problem of limited access. She said helping people navigate their way through the judicial system is an important service.
“Having immigrated from Portugal myself and having devoted my career to being a voice for victims who need fair representation, I understand the significance of ensuring equal access to justice for all,” Cruz Fragoso added.
The commission’s success will hinge on how well the state can do in representing people regardless of income or language ability. Performance measures will be used to track progress.