Access to justice is a popular movement right now. Courts, lawyers, organizations are pushing for more resources for people to be able to get their disputes resolved in our legal system. The big hurdle, however, is our legal system.
It is a pay-to-play system. Only those who can afford lawyers get access to it without question. Everybody else has to fend for themselves.
I recently was approached by a person who is pursuing an action in federal court. They needed help. They had done a nice job of putting their case together, but the court system stood in their way.
The person was required to file their materials in hard copy and the filings were put on a shelf somewhere in the courthouse. The other side, and the court, were able use an online filing system. The other side and the court never referred to any of the other person’s hard-copy filings. They were not scanned in, were not electronically accessible, and were, apparently, forgotten.
A loss at the district court level then went to the 9th circuit Court of Appeals. Same thing happened there. A request was made to have hard copy materials scanned in and transmitted to the court, and it was denied. A decision was entered and the lower court was affirmed.
That’s not access to justice. “Welcome, but here are your special and less-favorable rules to play by”? Meanwhile, the party who could afford counsel sailed through the case as though they were effectively unopposed.
State court is not much better. Judge’s press on individuals not represented by counsel and make sure they know that without counsel, they are at a disadvantage. But, if they cannot afford counsel there is no alternative but to try to represent themselves. And, it is against all odds.
It's the same for business owners. They must also have lawyers in court. They cannot represent their own company in court.
Where’s the alternative? We are chanting the right words “Access to Justice” but it is still elusive.
No Lawyers Allowed is not the complete and total solution. But, it is more than we have had before.
Now, mediation and arbitration are accessible to those involved in a dispute without having to hire a lawyer. Now, there is a form of dispute resolution that gives people a voice and control over their dispute. And, because it is without lawyers, it is a cost-effective resolution.