Voices’ Blog

In Consumer Debt, Let’s Not Forget the Role of Civil Justice

September 13, 2019 - 8:36 am
Debt collection burdens 71 million Americans, including medical bills, student loans, and credit-card debt. It’s time to reform our civil courts to give them a fighting chance.

Terry was just finishing up 16 months of costly cancer treatment when the calls started. First one, then another and another. A debt collector had found Terry’s number and was looking to recoup a debt Terry knew she had repaid a decade before. But it didn’t matter: the collector went after her in court anyway, garnishing her wages for more than $6,000.

What happened to Terry is far from unique in America’s civil justice system, where debt collection cases are decided – almost always in favor of the debt buyer or collector. Debt collection burdens 71 million Americans, including medical bills, student loans, and credit-card debt. It also perpetuates racial injustice: 45% of residents with credit reports living in predominantly nonwhite ZIP codes are affected by debt collection.

Read Terry’s story in Business Insider, where Lauren Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center and Martha Bergmark of Voices for Civil Justice argue for necessary fixes to our civil justice and debt collection systems.

There’s growing public interest in consumer debt, and medical debt in particular, with a number of stories recently highlighting the excessive lengths to which hospitals, insurers, and debt buyers will go to make hardworking people pay.

In this conversation, we shouldn’t ignore the role of civil courts: how they have facilitated the debt crisis facing American families, and how they have a role to play in fixing it so every person facing a debt collector has a chance at equal justice under the law. 

Read the op-ed here to learn more about the role civil justice reform has to play in addressing America’s debt crisis, then share it on social media (or click here to post our sample Tweet)!

Debt collection burdens 71 million Americans, including medical bills, student loans, and credit-card debt. It’s time to reform our civil courts to give them a fighting chance. #CivilJusticeSolutions #AllRiseforCivilJustice



Justice ain’t much if you can’t afford it

July 30, 2019 - 8:30 am
In her recent op-ed for Newsweek, Voices for Civil Justice Executive Director Martha Bergmark argues: “In America, we are raised with the promise of ‘justice for all.’ But after decades as a civil rights and civil legal aid lawyer, I know firsthand that our nation falls far short of that ideal.”

In Justice Ain’t Much If You Can’t Afford It, Bergmark reflects on her early days in Mississippi, witnessing and working to end the misuse of small claims courts to strip people of their meager assets and keep them beholden to those with power and means. She makes the case for new resolve and investment in systemic reforms and civil legal aid to fix our broken civil justice system, so that it works for everyone – not just for the wealthy and the powerful.  

Help us spread the word in your networks – here’s a sample tweet you can post by clicking here:

There is a crisis in this country’s civil justice system; but with investment in systemic reforms and civil legal aid, we can have a system that fulfills America’s promise of justice for all.” @MarthaBergmark in @Newsweek calling for #CivilJusticeReform. https://bit.ly/2Zmdr0A

Make sure to follow All Rise for Civil Justice on Facebook and Twitter to stay on top of the latest pieces like Martha’s!


Pennsylvania Voices and that 4-letter word

July 11, 2019 - 8:24 am
Peer Perspectives share media-savvy ideas and insights from the field. This post is by Christine Kirby, director of development and state support at Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc., and statewide coordinator of Pennsylvania Voices.

Legal Aid protected this family’s American dream

June 28, 2019 - 7:59 am
After a lifetime of escaping violence and poverty in El Salvador, 19-year-old Herbert came to the United States determined to make a better future. The life he built here – as a husband, father, business owner and leader in his community – was nearly destroyed by one traffic violation. Herbert was fortunate to find the help he needed to navigate an extremely complex immigration justice system. We tell his remarkable story in our latest photo essay, created with the generous support of freelance photographer Lisa Helfert.

Top Amazon Lawyer: “Fix the Broken Civil Justice System”

June 18, 2019 - 7:52 am
Amazon’s General Counsel David Zapolsky argues that American corporations have a major stake in keeping America’s promise of equal justice under law.

“I was on a conservative talk radio program yesterday” (and other things legal aid communicators could be saying…)

June 3, 2019 - 7:49 am
Peer Perspectives share media-savvy ideas and insights from the field. This post is by Ann Kloeckner, executive director of Legal Aid Works in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  www.legalaidworks.org June 3, 2019 Early in my tenure as executive director at Legal Aid Works in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 2012, I was invited to be a guest on Town Talk, an hour-long show airing from ... Read more

All Rise for Civil Justice, a new Voices campaign

March 21, 2019 - 3:36 pm
Today, our team at Voices for Civil Justice is excited to announce the official launch of All Rise for Civil Justice, a new national campaign for civil justice reform. Equal justice under law is a right, not a privilege. In America, we believe people should get fair resolutions to problems that threaten their families, homes ... Read more

Welcoming our Newest Voices Team Member

March 12, 2019 - 3:31 pm
We are excited to share this introductory message from the newest member of our team, Media Relations Manager Sam Scarrow.  Hello, everyone! I’m thrilled to have the chance to work with each of you and am honored to have the responsibility and opportunity to elevate the civil justice crisis in our national discourse. If my name seems familiar, you have ... Read more

Your next report could be media gold

January 29, 2019 - 9:24 am
One of the most important lessons we've learned in five years of media advocacy is that issuing a report is a fantastic way to get media attention for an issue.

Voices turns 5

November 30, 2018 - 8:10 am
  The team here at Voices for Civil Justice is excited to mark our fifth anniversary as the go-to media resource for civil legal aid and civil justice reform. And we are grateful to you for being our indispensable partners in driving a steady drumbeat of media coverage about civil legal aid – what it ... Read more

Refresh on the Messaging

November 1, 2018 - 12:04 pm
This morning at the NLADA annual conference Civil Caucus Voices previewed All Rise for Civil Justice, our new digital storytelling campaign that will launch in early 2019. We will share more information on All Rise – including how you can be a part of it – in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we think this ... Read more

Voices at NLADA – Unveiling an exciting new project and crisis communications

October 26, 2018 - 6:59 pm
We are looking forward to the NLADA Annual Conference in Houston, where Soren will respresent Voices in two venues. In the Civil Caucus he will share an exclusive first look at a digital storytelling campaign that we have been working on for quite some time now. And Soren has put together an excellent workshop on crisis communications.