The vast majority of ordinary Americans lack any real access to courts as they struggle to navigate a world that is increasingly shaped by legal rules and obligations. Often this means simply forgoing legal rights and entitlements or giving up in the face of claims of wrongdoing. Among those who cannot avoid courts–such as those facing eviction, collection, or foreclosure and those seeking child support, custodial access, or protection from violence or harassment–the vast majority–as many as 99 percent in some cases–find themselves in court without any legal assistance at all. There are many reasons for this lack of meaningful access, including the underfunding of courts and legal aid, but perhaps the most fundamental is the excessively restrictive American approach to regulating legal markets. This regulation, controlled by the American legal profession and judiciary, closes off the potential for significant reductions in the cost of, and hence increases in access to, courts. Unlike the problem of funding, that is a problem that state courts have the power, if they can find the judicial will, to change.
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Date of this Version
Gillian K. Hadfield, "Innovating to Improve Access: Changing the Way Courts Regulate Legal Markets" (April 2014). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 119.
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