New report explores why the time is right for an overhaul of our civil justice system
New York, NY—The United States is currently facing widespread failures in its civil justice system, an essential public good that’s key to our democracy. Today’s civil courts are underfunded and overburdened, leaving many individuals without the resources needed to navigate the legal system. The net result is a growing gap between what Americans need from the civil justice system and what it provides.
In “National Civil Justice Reform: A Proposal for New Federal-State Partnerships,” Daniel Wilf-Townsend, Of Counsel to Gupta Wessler PLLC, proposes a national civil justice reform bill that would protect individuals’ rights and ensure that all Americans have access to this foundational public good. Such a package would not only ban forced arbitration and make lawyers more accessible but would also fund innovative state and local experiments to create alternative systems that help low-income individuals navigate the civil justice system. This package promises to be more than the sum of its parts, tackling the problems of civil justice from multiple angles and building on the work of advocates and stakeholders across the country.
“Many of the most significant problems that Americans face in life, such as wrongful evictions or unfair debt collection practices, are civil justice problems. An estimated 16 million Americans go through the civil justice system without lawyers every year—in a system that’s designed for lawyers. This problem is particularly severe for people of color, who are less likely than white people to turn to the courts when confronted with civil legal issues, and more likely to bear the brunt of the civil justice system’s failures,” said Wilf-Townsend.
The report, released by the Great Democracy Initiative, proposes to:
- Create a new federal funding program to enhance access to justice by supporting state civil justice operations and spurring innovation;
- Reform the Federal Arbitration Act to abolish forced arbitration for workers and consumers, so that federal law does not prevent anyone from having their day in court; and
- Restore funding for legal aid to its prior levels so that more people in need will have access to legal representation.
“It is time to reinvest in our nation’s civil justice infrastructure. The underfunding of our state civil justice systems is a national problem and calls for a national solution. Tackling the problems of civil justice from multiple angles to make the law’s protections more accessible to everyone is key, and a national civil justice reform bill can help to achieve it,” said Wilf-Townsend.
To learn more about how the Great Democracy Initiative is changing the way we think about our government’s role in building a safer, healthier, and more prosperous society for all Americans, click here.