top of page

March 6, 2024

Judiciary Committee Passes Bills to Boost Legal Aid Funding, Expand Diversion Program Eligibility

DENVER, CO - The House Judiciary Committee today passed two bills to boost legal aid funding and expand diversion program eligibility. HB24-1286, sponsored by Representatives Junie Joseph and Mandy Lindsay, would increase access to affordable legal aid. SB24-006, bipartisan legislation sponsored by Representative Regina English, would increase eligibility to diversion programs for people with an intellectual or developmental disability or a mental health or behavioral health issue. 

“As a family law attorney who does pro bono work, I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it can be for hardworking Coloradans to access affordable legal representation,” said Rep. Junie Joseph, D-Boulder, sponsor of HB24-1286. “Economic status should never dictate justice. By creating the Equal Justice Fund Authority, we can ensure that hardworking Coloradans have equitable access to the legal resources they need to get the outcomes they deserve.”

“Lack of access to resources while navigating the legal system can have devastating legal and economic consequences,” said Rep. Mandy Lindsay, D-Aurora, sponsor of HB24-1286. “Our legislation would boost funding for organizations that provide lower-income Coloradans with legal resources and representation, giving them the tools to best represent their needs in the criminal justice system. Everyone deserves a fair fight, regardless of their income.”

HB24-1286 would create the Equal Justice Fund Authority and the Equal Justice Fund to provide financial support to numerous organizations that provide pro bono or low-cost legal services to low-income Coloradans. The bill would add a $20 fee to appeal and civil court filings to fund the Equal Justice Fund Authority.

This bill would increase funding for the Equal Justice Fund by $1.1 million in FY 2024-2025 and $2.2 million every year after. The bill passed by a vote of 6-5.

Currently, district attorneys can use an assessment tool to identify individuals who are eligible to be diverted away from the juvenile or criminal justice system and into appropriate services. SB24-006 expands eligibility and diversion services for individuals to include juveniles and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those with behavioral health issues. SB24-006, also sponsored by Representative Mary Bradfield, R-Colorado Springs, passed by a vote of 10-0. 

“People with behavioral health issues and intellectual disabilities often become involved in the criminal justice system, and they deserve to be considered for diversion programs that foster rehabilitation outside of jails and prisons,” said Rep. Regina English, D-Colorado Springs, sponsor of SB24-006. “Our legislation would prohibit district attorneys from denying participation in a diversion program based on mental health, behavioral health, or disability, creating a more fair criminal justice system.”

bottom of page