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Abstract

reminds us that civil justice reform has to start with compelling human stories. She’s right. Building a movement requires drawing in the care and effort of those who previously had not seen the problem. A story of a mother and her family unjustly evicted from their home, of an older gentleman whose life savings are unjustly taken, or of a father fighting for visitation rights unjustly denied: each of these personal stories is an outrage and will often generate anger in the listener. Stories lead those who do not live the injustices of our civil justice system every day to ask: How can this be? Broad outrage, the “how can it be?” question, and the demand for answers and action, are the fuel of any social justice movement. But in a social justice movement, personal stories rarely allow us to see the complete picture. To change the system, we as advocates also need the wider communities in which we live to see that the personal stories are representative of thousands more that are the product of the same and related systemic failures. Individual acts of compassion for those whose stories we hear will not help the thousands whose stories we never hear. The “complete picture” of the lack of access to civil justice is that the problem is systemic and that fixing it will require big changes and concerted action.

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