The upcoming Tuesday March 21 gathering, at Fordham Law School, on Unifying Global and U.S. Access to Justice Movements: The Judicial Perspective should help get us thinking about that huge and challenging topic.
The speakers will be: Matthew Diller, Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law, Fordham Law School; Jonathan Lippman, Of Counsel, Latham & Watkin, Chief Judge, New York Court of Appeals (2009-2015); Willy Mutunga, Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence, Leitner Center for International Law and Justice, Fordham Law School, Chief Justice and President, Supreme Court of Kenya (2011-2016); Rebecca L. Sandefur, Faculty Fellow and Founder, Access to Justice Research Initiative, American Bar Foundation, Associate Professor of Sociology and Law, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, David Udell, moderator
Executive Director, National Center for Access to Justice.
The first point is that the national political context in which an access to justice innovation issue arises can make all the difference. Thus, in the US, the question of adding forms of nonlawyer assistance or self-help services has to be assessed in a context in which the alternative status quo would be no assistance. In much of the developed world, however, the context of these proposals is proposals or plans to reduce provision of assistance of counsel — an entirely different matter. It is really important, I would suggest, that in international discussions we should be very careful to clarify the context in which a proposal, evaluation, research, etc., comes up. The Third World context is like that of the US, only more so.
The second point is that in many countries the phrase “access to justice” focuses more on “justice,” and less on”access.” By this I mean that the phrase focuses more on substance rather than process. In many countries the political and legal structures are so weak in their protection of rights that the focus is on establishing the effective recognition of rights, rather than ensuring that the processes of legal structure are fully accessible. While the two areas obviously overlap greatly, there can be confusion on this point.
Finally, nothing said here should in any way under the conclusion that these kind of gatherings are very very helpful in illuminating the issues in all contexts, in providing opportunities to learn about new ideas and new approaches. I would hope that the proceedings and lessons are well shared, something that has perhaps tended not to happen enough with International Legal Aid Group meetings, which are always attended by a number of Americans.