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Friday, October 15, 2010

U.S. Lags in Access to Justice

The United States ranks below most other developed nations and even some Third World countries when it comes to access to justice, according to the World Justice Project's new "Rule of Law Index." Dan Froomkin in the Huffington Post yesterday summarized the results from The Index and particularly noted the large gap between the rich and the poor when it comes to access to justice and satisfaction with our legal system.

As the World Justice Project reported, “For instance, only 40% of low-income respondents who used the court system in the past three years reported that the process was fair, compared to 71% of wealthy respondents. This 31% gap between poor and rich litigants in the USA is the widest among all developed countries sampled. In France this gap is only 5%, in South Korea it is 4% and in Spain it is nonexistent.”

Considering the well-documented bias in our courts in favor of big business, these findings are not surprising and demonstrate that the American legal system, which was once the envy of the world, is increasingly sliding into dysfunction, particularly in civil proceedings. Further complicating access to justice issues is an ongoing crisis in our courts caused by the fact that one in eight federal judgeships is sitting empty. Republican obstruction of judicial nominees in the Senate is unprecedented and making it even more difficult for ordinary Americans to receive justice due to overburdened courts. Tell your Senators to make our justice system a priority.

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