To be fair, some lawyers are doing good work to deliver access to justice for all. But the profession as a whole is not. That’s not surprising when you consider the first duty of a lawyer is to fight for a client’s interest above the interests of others.
Courtroom5’s pleas to always take a court reporter to court have found major support in the judiciary. The California Supreme Court recently provided a much needed shot in the arm to indigent and moderate income litigants in Jameson v. Desta. Citing access to justice concerns, the court ruled unanimously that indigent litigants are entitled to free court reporters.
The right to counsel has come to New York City’s Housing Court, where 90% of tenants face eviction without a lawyer. The city will spend more than $90 million each year to ensure a small measure of fairness in these proceedings. Let’s pray the whole country follows suit.
In the Information Age, self-represented litigants are here to stay. One way to keep us from clogging the nation’s courts is to give everyone the same access to the courts that lawyers have. Let us ride in the HOV lane too.
How would you design a judicial system where the primary users were self-represented litigants? Richard Zorza answered that question years ago in his book, “The Self-Help Friendly Court”. New data on our dominant presence in the courts shows his prophetic genius.
Tavis Smiley held a fascinating hourlong discussion with five of the nation’s most distinguished judges on the many ways our justice system is failing us. This first of three scheduled town hall meetings covered differing access to justice for the rich and poor, implicit biases among judges, and rules for blowing the whistle on judicial misconduct.
Despite progress, it’s hard to put a positive spin on this year’s Justice Index, the annual state ranking on access to justice. This data means we cannot rely on the legal profession to solve the crisis. Those of us who represent ourselves must help the courts change in ways that meet our needs.
Jim Sandman at the Legal Services Corporation is among the profession’s fiercest advocates for civil legal aid. That advocacy — along with the talent he brings to the job — makes him one of the Lawyers We Love.
Evidence is mounting that we’ve lost our collective minds. When courts need reminding that poverty is not a criminal offense — in 2016 — it’s time to reboot the system.
Lawyers and judges have made good, solid proposals for improving access to justice, but too often efficiency is mistaken for access. The best answers will come from an army of self-represented litigants as we continue to shape the courts to our liking.