Removing barriers to civil justice

The problem of access to civil justice is not just a matter for the very poor. It is also a problem for America's middle class.

Column (Florida)

Jorge Labarga
Tampa Bay Times
October 16, 2015

Tags: Access to Justice Commissions, Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice (FCATCJ)


Only 20 percent of indigent persons receive legal counsel in civil cases. Moreover, many working-class Floridians do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

I’m talking about the repair person who fixes your air conditioner in the middle of summer and is trying to raise a family while making about $40,000 a year. Or the schoolteacher, firefighter or plumber who is trying to raise a family while making about the same amount.

These folks cannot afford to hire a lawyer when they find themselves in a legal bind that competent legal representation may be able to solve — in many instances without much effort. Indeed, the number of self-represented litigants has increased over the past decades. The majority of family law-related matters in most states now include at least one unrepresented party. How many of these people give up precious rights because they cannot afford a lawyer?