The ability of any person to have equal access to justice is a lofty concept which, while uniformly embraced in theory, has often been viewed as unattainable in practice. Imbalances, inconsistencies and inequalities which are inherent in our societal stratification have resulted in many lay and legal observers having resigned themselves to the collective notion that equal access to justice for all must be articulated as the omnipresent ideal readily invoked by anyone, though realistically only available to a privileged segment of the populace. In recent years, however, a concerted movement has been launched to systematically institute programs, practices and procedures which are specifically designed to actively and effectively promote equal access to justice for everyone.
This initiative has been spearheaded by a growing number of legal boards, commissions and societies in states across America which are devoted to the principle that every individual is entitled to have equal access to the justice afforded by the appropriate forums devised for this purpose throughout the land, regardless of the presence of any factors which have historically served as impediments to the ability of those who have experienced such barriers to obtain fairness, justice and equality through the operation of law. With this welcome advocacy, the proverbial guarantee of liberty and justice for all under the law now rings more loudly and forcefully.
These stakeholder entities recognize their unique abilities to successfully fulfill this mission while acknowledging their fundamental duties to institutionalize the establishment of tools to ensure equal access to justice. These tools include, to name a few:
- the relaxation of formal procedures which are typically required to invoke the jurisdiction of legal and quasi-legal forums.
- the greater availability of legal forms to self-represented litigants.
- the growth of the pool of potential legal representatives for litigants who cannot afford to hire their own counsel.
- the creation of incentives to attract attorney volunteers to provide professional legal services at low or no cost.
These and other innovative measures ultimately operate for the benefit of those oftentimes powerless, neglected or shunned segments of society which now have a growing presence in the achievement of equal access to justice.
Information on access to justice can be found in the NJC’s Administrative Law: Advanced course (June 1-4, 2015, Reno, NV), Best Practices in Handling Cases with Self-Represented Litigants (July 13-16, 2015, Reno, NV), and in other NJC courses throughout the year.