The Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Fund will support initiatives to advance access to justice, racial equity and criminal justice reform in the legal system. This fund is a collaboration between the Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants Access to Justice Fund Advisory Committee, Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Bar Foundation.
Areas of Focus
During his tenure on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Gants was intent on making progress in each of these critical areas of focus. As co-chair of the Access to Justice Commission, he led many efforts to expand the availability of counsel for people who cannot afford an attorney and to make it easier for unrepresented litigants to navigate the court system. In his 2019 State of the Judiciary Address, Gants said, "Until we create a world in which all who need counsel in civil cases have access to counsel, we must do all we can to make the court system more understandable and accessible for the many litigants who must represent themselves."
Gants was also focused on the urgent need to eradicate racial inequities in the legal system. In June 2020, along with his fellow justices, he issued a letter calling on members of the legal community to recommit themselves "to the systemic change needed to make equality under the law an enduring reality for all." Only days before his death, he directed our attention to a new Harvard Law School study of racial disparities in the Massachusetts criminal justice system, which he had requested, calling it a "must-read for anyone who is committed to understanding the reasons for such disparities and taking action to end them."
He was a champion for criminal justice reform. In 2015, he joined with the executive and legislative branches to undertake the Justice Reinvestment Initiative that eventually sparked sweeping reform legislation in 2018. Gants recognized the "need to do whatever works best, based on the best available social science evidence, to reduce recidivism and put people with criminal histories back on the path to living normal lives, not only for their sake, but for the sake of our society as a whole" because "we are all interconnected, we are all part of the same team, and the successes or failures of one affect us all."
This fund will seek to carry on his legacy on the issues he cared about most.