Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress argues that it is time to fix the nation’s civil justice system so that it works for everyone, not just the people who can afford to hire private lawyers.
Federal policymakers need to be talking about civil justice reform. While civil legal aid programs exist in every state, current funding barely provides one attorney for every 10,000 low-income Americans—and that doesn’t include the tens of millions of Americans who struggle to pay for legal help because they do not qualify for free federal legal assistance.
This gap poses a major problem for people who cannot afford legal representation in cases involving worker rights, evictions, housing discrimination, access to health care, disability benefits, and dozens of other issues. Too often, the resolution to these kinds of high-stakes civil justice problems—in courts and before administrative bodies—depends more on an individual’s wealth than whether the law is on their side.
According to the CAP analysis, Americans strongly favor reforming the civil justice system and increasing funding to make it fairer and more accessible. Yet the Trump administration has sought to eliminate the main federal funding source for civil legal aid and has shuttered the only office in the executive branch dedicated to addressing gaps in access to civil justice.
This issue brief offers specific examples of how civil legal aid helps people obtain health care, avoid evictions, remove barriers to employment, find relief from illegal debt collection, and secure their immigration status. It describes how the federal government has supported or partnered with civil legal aid groups in the past and urges leaders at all levels of government—especially the presidency—to step up to advance civil justice reform.
Read the issue brief: “Civil Justice Needs Federal Leadership” by Maha Jweied and Karen A. Lash
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.478.6327.