It is a sobering but oft-cited fact that the legal needs of a majority of Americans go unmet because of the costs and other barriers to legal representation, denying the benefits of our justice system to those most vulnerable. The central historical response to this problem, the federally created Legal Services Corporation, has been unable in the last three decades to alleviate the problem, creating a need for state advocates, academics, and policymakers to look toward innovative state and local initiatives to improve legal services for the poor.
The “Access to Justice” movement, arising in response to increased restrictions on federally-funded legal aid in the 1990’s, has flowered in the last decade, resulting in the creation of Access to Justice Commissions or similar bodies in nearly all of the fifty states, and a wellspring of efforts by bar associations, policy centers, and other nongovernmental organizations to provide research and information resources to traditionally unrepresented litigants and their advocates. At the same time, scholarly understanding of the scope and extent of unmet legal needs has increased just as dramatically.
The efforts of organizations dedicated to access to justice have been greatly magnified by the Internet and its capacity to afford universal access to stakeholders of the movement. Below you will find a number of great resources concerning access to the Civil Justice System.