Michigan State Bar Foundation (MSBF)
The November NCBF Spotlight shines on the Michigan State Bar Foundation (MSBF). The MSBF is an organization that was established in 1947 by lawyers and judges to help the legal profession meet its responsibilities to the public. For the first 40 years, the Foundation supported many worthwhile projects including judicial conferences, state law revision committees, jury instructions, and teacher training. Civil legal aid to the poor became a focus for the Foundation when Foundation Trustee, John Cummiskey of Grand Rapids, suggested a role to add support to the network of legal aid agencies throughout Michigan.
The Michigan State Bar Foundation provides leadership and funding to improve the justice system. Since inception, the Foundation has made grants totaling more than $210 million. Nonprofit civil legal aid programs receive the largest share of the Foundation’s grants to help assure access to justice for all. Civil legal aid assures fairness in the justice system. Legal Aid programs funded by the Foundation complete approximately 50,000 cases for low-income persons in Michigan each year. The Foundation also supports programs that improve the administration of justice by educating children and adults about their legal rights and responsibilities, the justice system and opportunities to resolve conflicts outside the courtroom.
Access to Justice Campaign
The Access to Justice Campaign was developed in 1997, redesigned in 2018, to ensure access and fairness for all in the justice system. The ATJ Campaign is a collaborative centralized campaign, in partnership with the State Bar of Michigan, to increase resources for fifteen regional and statewide civil legal aid programs in Michigan. 100% of donations for current operations will be distributed to support civil legal aid to the poor throughout Michigan.
For more information about the Access to Justice Campaign, please see atjfund.org.
Civil Legal Aid to the Poor– Civil legal aid helps ensure fairness for all in the justice system, regardless of how much money you have. The Foundation provides approximately $8 million in recurring annual operating grants to seven statewide and five regional nonprofit legal aid programs. With the help of the Foundation, our annual grantees continue to provide civil legal help to families facing urgent problems and advocate for systemic solutions to ensure fair outcomes. For more information about the Foundation’s project grants, visit msbf.org/civil.
Administration of Justice– In the last decade, the Foundation has distributed approximately $2.2 million for projects that improve the administration of justice (AOJ) through law-related education, conflict resolution, to assisting the delivery of civil legal aid to the poor. These grants have included efforts such as helping develop a Medical Legal Partnership between a civil legal aid program and a community health center, helping citizens learn about being a juror, and helping an organization enhance their website to provide law-related educational materials for teachers and children. For information about AOJ grants, visit msbf.org/administration.
Staff and Leadership
The Michigan State Bar Foundation is managed by six dedicated staff members, twenty-two fellows, and three officers of the fellows.