CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia Access to Justice Commission will hold six public forums to discuss access to justice barriers in West Virginia, the state Supreme Court of Appeals announced Monday.

Information gathered from the hearings will be used to conduct a needs assessment regarding civil legal representation for people of low income or modest means in the state.

Five hearings will be held during the fall and the final hearing will be held at the state Supreme Court.

The hearing panel will consist of West Virginia Access to Justice commissioners. Local legislators, judges, city and county representatives also have been invited to attend.

The commission also encourages those who have experienced barriers to the civil legal system to sign up to speak at one of the public forums.

The commission would like to hear from speakers who can address a number of issues including language barriers, attorney fees, court costs, lack of transportation to courthouses, illiteracy, lack of notice, lack of disability accessibility, lack of sign language interpreters for the deaf, cognitive impairments, income just above poverty guidelines yet still prohibitive of obtaining legal services, and others.

The forum schedule follows:

- Aug. 16, Smith Auditorium at Tamarack, Beckley
- Aug. 29, Martinsburg
- Sept. 12, Huntington
- Sept. 26, Wheeling
- Nov. 1, Morgantown
- Nov. 15, Charleston

All forums will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

The state Supreme Court established the Access to Justice Commission on Jan. 29, 2009 by Administrative Order.

The purpose of the commission is to assist West Virginians with low income or of modest means overcome barriers within the civil legal system. These hearings will allow the commission to identify those barriers.

For those interested in speaking at the hearings or needing language or disability assistance, please contact Deborah Bogan at 304-558-0145 or by email at deborah.bogan@courtswv.gov.

All speakers will have a designated period of time allotted to them to convey their messages.

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