Access to Civil Justice: Is There a Solution?

By Moon, Ronald T. Y. | Judicature, January/February 2005 | Go to article overview

Access to Civil Justice: Is There a Solution?

Moon, Ronald T. Y., Judicature

Pro bono efforts can help ensure access to legal assistance for all members of society.

Equal justice for all is the cornerstone of democracy and forms the fabric of our society. In order for our justice system to be truly accessible to all, the enforcement of our laws-which govern everything from economic relationships to the most personal and family matters-must be within the grasp of every citizen, not just the wealthy. Without meaningful access, the law simply becomes an unfulfilled promise.

Despite all of the efforts to address access-to-justice issues over the last several decades, the demand for legal services has consistently outweighed the limited resources. Thus, the lack of access to legal services by the poor continues to be a major social problem. Moreover, for the increasing number of immigrants who have come to the U.S. in recent years, the problem of access to justice has been compounded by issues pertaining to language barriers, cultural differences, and difficulties associated with assimilating into the mainstream of American life. These individuals, as well as those with disabilities, are just as vulnerable as the poor in terms of finding access to legal services.

The last in-depth assessment of the civil legal needs of low- and moderate-income people in Hawaii-referred to as "The Spandenberg Report," which was completed in June 1993-revealed a "serious level of unmet legal needs among both low income families and gap group families," that is, families whose incomes are too high to qualify for free civil legal services, yet too low to afford market rate legal assistance. The report indicated that only 9.6 percent of low-income families in Hawaii receive legal assistance for their civil legal problems. Admittedly, this assessment was done more than 10 years ago, and some may believe another assessment is needed to determine an accurate picture of our current situation. I submit, however, that another assessment will likely tell us what we already know by simply looking at the growing immigrant population in Hawaii and the increasing number of pro se litigants appearing in our courts at all levels-parties representing themselves because they simply cannot afford to hire an attorney. I firmly believe that another legal needs assessment survey will lead to only one conclusion-that the problem regarding access to civil justice has gotten worse.

Sadly, low-income and gap group families are not getting the help they need with ordinary, but nonetheless essential, legal matters. I am speaking about such fundamental matters as securing promised government benefits, finding housing, getting a divorce, assisting an aging parent, obtaining unemployment insurance or workers' compensation benefits, handling medical emergencies or serious illnesses, or-worst of all-finding safety and refuge from domestic violence and child or sex abuse. The irony, of course, is that: those who are most disadvantaged and least empowered simply do not have the means to access the very things that might, in some circumstances, turn their situations around or at least improve them.

To quote the Honorable Learned Hand, "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Ration Justice." Unfortunately, rationing appears to be the cumulative net effect of having a legal and judicial system that is overburdened and underfunded. Indeed, if we could secure consistent, full funding for our judicial system and for legal services programs, many problems could be solved. But, as you know, the reality of that happening in the foreseeable future is slim in light of our still fragile economy and the competing interests of many other types of service programs. We, therefore, continue to look for solutions elsewhere, Is there a solution? My answer is: YES!

A joint responsibility

Meeting the civil justice needs of poor and vulnerable people is a joint responsibility of both the public and private sectors. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Access to Civil Justice: Is There a Solution?


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.