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Understanding the Access to Justice Crisis


Even in the country with the most lawyers, many ordinary citizens face significant obstacles navigating the legal system as a result of the lack of affordable attorneys in civil and domestic relations matters. For a more in-depth discussion, please see the following article, "Equal Justice Under Law," from the Santa Clara University website.


In 1963, the Supreme Court, in the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case, ruled that those accused of a crime have a constitutional right to a lawyer whether or not they can afford one. There is no similar right afforded to the poor in civil cases. This article examines how eighty percent of the civil legal needs of the poor go unmet.


The shortage of affordable attorneys leaves many ordinary citizens with no option but to represent themselves in court in divorce, child custody, landlord-tenant, and other civil legal matters. The increase in the number of self-represented litigants is problematic for a number of reasons, straining already limited judicial resources. To better understand the civil legal services environment, please see the following article entitled, "Stratification of the Legal Profession: A Debate in Need of a Public Forum," by Laurel A. Rigertas.




Deborah Rhode, Equal Justice Under Law, Santa Clara U.. Available at (Last visited September 19, 2014).


Ethan Bronner, Right to Lawyer Can be Empty Promise for Poor, N.Y. Times, Mar. 16, 2013. Available at (Last visited September 19, 2014).


Laurel A. Rigertas, Stratification of the Legal Profession: A Debate in Need of a Public Forum, J. Prof. Law 79 (2012). Available at (Last visited September 19, 2014).


Theresa Amato, Op-Ed., Put the Lawyers Where They're Needed, N.Y. Times, June 17, 2015, at A25. Available at



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