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Abstract

I decided early in 2009, upon becoming Chief Judge and the steward of the justice system in New York, to focus my energy on ensuring that everyone gets their day in court. Regardless of how a person looks or where he or she was born, and regardless of whether or not a person has resources or power, justice cannot be about the color of your skin or the amount of money in your pocket. Justice must mean that when people are fighting for the necessities of life, for the roof over their heads, they must get the legal assistance that they need, and the scales of lady justice will be exquisitely balanced. Learned Hand’s famous quote—“thou shall not ration justice”—is the one cardinal rule of our democracy. The constitutional and moral mission of the judiciary is equal justice. This is what we do as judges going back to biblical times: “Justice, and only Justice shall you pursue;” “both low and high, Rich and poor together.” If, as judges, we do not fulfill this commitment, we might as well close the courthouse doors. That focus generated so many things that I am proud of in New York, and that as leaders in the access to justice movement, we can all be proud of.

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