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Abstract

I doubt we will ever experience something we (or others) would call an Access to Justice Movement in the United States. The goal is too amorphous, lacks immediacy, and doesn’t resonate: If people don’t perceive that many of their problems have a legal solution, why would they rally to support “100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs”? The legal system is too big, too complicated, and too removed from people’s everyday experiences. And especially in low-income communities of color, distrust of the justice system runs deep. People don’t want access to a system they believe is unjust. That is not to say, that we can’t make substantial progress toward a legal system where rights and responsibilities are equitably enforced, disputes are fairly resolved, and public safety is truly secured. But I believe it will come from issue-specific campaigns that grow out of people’s critical needs—needs they articulate.

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