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.
Access to justice commissions are tinkering around the edges of what’s needed to restore confidence in our judicial system. The problem is deeper than their mandates. We need a better understanding of the role of justice in society. We need to see it as an antidote to the chaos spreading around us.
Laquan McDonald was murdered by a Chicago police officer more than a year ago. Video of the incident, released this week, showed that a blue wall of silence and an official coverup combined to deny this citizen every notion of justice. Our conversations around access to justice must grow to include these violations of basic human rights.
We can no longer tolerate the decrepit state of civil justice in the United States. But the system cannot fix itself. It’s our system, and we have to take responsibility for fixing it. For the pro se litigant, that starts with wriggling our way out of the special jurisdiction courts set aside for us, and then working collectively to abolish these courts altogether.