News Story (New York)
November 27, 2019
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Tags: Access to Justice
According to Fern A. Fisher, the former deputy chief administrative judge of the New York City Courts, 98 percent of defendants are not represented by an attorney when sued for consumer debt. That figure is around 80 percent for those in housing cases. In uncontested divorce cases, Fisher said that unhappy couples are often forced to stay married because they didn’t file the paperwork right.
That’s why Fisher — who retired in 2017 — started the program, called Access to Justice, in 2009. In the wake of the recession the previous year, Fisher saw a growing need for legal services, specifically in civil courts. The United States is tied for 99th out of 126 countries in providing accessible and affordable legal services, dropping 30 spots from 2015, according to the World Justice Project’s 2019 Rule of Law index.
Fisher said that while the U.S. justice system has found ways to punish criminal offenders with great efficiency, it hasn’t figured out how to help people faced with civil cases — which impacts quality of life.
“Our country hasn’t come to grips that part of improving human condition is providing free civil legal services,” Fisher said.