Our civil justice system fails ordinary Americans.
In America, we grow up believing in justice for all. We believe people should get fair resolutions to problems that threaten their families, homes and livelihoods. But the reality is, wealth and power have the advantage in civil courts.
Every year, Americans encounter life-changing problems they can’t resolve because our civil courts are a complex maze. At some point, most people have a problem like a divorce or wrongful treatment by a landlord or debt collector and need a legal solution. But millions lose their cases in civil court, not because they’ve done something wrong, but because they don’t have the information or legal help they need.
This is the civil justice crisis. Together we can fix it so our civil justice system so it works for everyone.
Civil justice protects people so they can
There are solutions to fix our civil justice system and make it work for all Americans. All of these solutions are needed to work together.
Too often, people don’t get help with their civil justice problems because they don’t know their problem is legal in nature and may have a legal solution. Online legal information, court forms in plain language, and self-help centers all reduce the knowledge barriers. Educating policymakers and human service providers, training for judges and pro bono lawyers, and data collection and research are also key knowledge solutions.
Community partners – libraries, schools, health care and human service providers, and government agencies – are increasingly on board with and proving essential to holistic approaches that resolve the civil justice problems of people they serve.
Modernizing and simplifying court processes, updating law practice rules, and ensuring a right to counsel in high-stakes civil cases are all examples of the many policy reforms needed to make civil courts fairer and more accessible.
Online dispute resolution, self-help websites and apps, online screening and referral, video-based consultation, and other technology innovations can transmit life-changing information faster and more inclusively than ever before. These innovations are balancing the scales of civil justice.
Even after court processes have been modernized, there will be many people who need full-scale representation in order to resolve their serious legal problems. Federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation is about a half-billion dollars. Adequate funding must come from both government and private sources.