Justice Ain’t Much if You Can’t Afford It. America Needs to Overhaul Its Civil Law

There is a crisis in this country's civil justice system, but with new resolve and investment in systemic reforms and civil legal aid, we can achieve Fannie Lou Hamer's vision of a civil justice system that fulfills America's promise of justice for all.


Martha Bergmark
July 18, 2019

Tags: Civil Justice Reform

Organizations mentioned/involved: Voices for Civil Justice


The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s marked me for life. At my all-white public school in Jackson, Mississippi, I pledged allegiance daily to the ideal of justice for all, while around me a fierce battle raged over a system of racial apartheid that made a mockery of that pledge. I went to law school to become a civil rights lawyer, dreaming of doing my part to dismantle Jim Crow. In my youthful naivete, I thought that by the time I got my law degree, the legal work would be almost done and I would be too late to help.

I needn’t have worried. In southeast Mississippi, where I founded the first civil legal aid program to serve the area in the 1970s, we won high-impact litigation to redress race discrimination in employment and housing, to secure the voting rights of African-Americans, and to end inhumane conditions at county jails.