Please take a moment to download the recently issued white paper by Deborah L. Rhode and Dmitry Bam. It explores the gap between principal and practice concerning access to justice, and what should be done to address it. Download the RTJ White Paper here.
You may wonder what Climate Change has to do with Access to Justice. And at first glance, it may not seem to have a connection. But when you consider the potential negative effects of Climate Change such as lack of clean water supplies and more natural disasters, the connection becomes less tenuous.
Consider clean water. If Climate Change impacts clean water supply, it is likely that costs of water purification will rise even if the demand remains constant. This would impact people living in poverty such that not only would they be less likely to have access to the clean water, but their health may be at risk. With many people in poverty already living without health insurance, the numbers of unhealthy poor people will be expected to rise. With people paying a premium for water, simply for sustenance, they are less likely to be able to afford legal assistance.
Now consider increasing natural disasters. The entire U.S. nation watched Hurricane Katrina unfold. Who suffered most in this historic natural disaster? People living in poverty. They were less likely to be able to transport their families and themselves out of harm’s way. Even if they were able to do that, they were less likely to have home insurance. Less likely to have skills necessary to relocate to another location where their job skills would easily translate into a new/different job.
As stewards of this planet, we need to consider how our actions affect not only ourselves, but our neighbors as well.
As noted on the front page of Blog Action Day: Climate change affects us all and it threatens more than the environment. It threatens to cause famine, flooding, war, and millions of refugees.
While many of us in South Carolina may not tend to notice what happens in California (after all it’s on the “other” coast and several hours away by plane), this signals a tough time for us as well. We look to California for trends; and for those of us in access to justice, we often rely on California for these trends. They provide the fertile classroom from which the rest of us glean ideas and then adapt them to fit our own state’s needs.
(Aside to the Other 49 States: We learn from you as well and occasionally you learn from us, but c’mon, truthfully, don’t many of us look to California for ideas? Really?)
California has been a national leader in working with self-represented litigants (SRLs); creating a vast library of plain language forms, working on unbundled legal representation, and developing information in multiple languages. Additionally JusticeCorps has taken off in California, and has been successfully providing information to SRLs in five counties for some time.
California has offered bilingual court service for many years; and information in many languages for a while as well.
And, according to the press release, the California Courts are the largest court system in the nation.
So how does this impact ACCESS TO JUSTICE?
By closing the courts one day per month, the third branch of government will close itself to its constituents. According to the LA Times, Chief Justice Ronald M. George noted that “the closures would result in delays in trials and more crowding in jails. Inmates who might have been released on the third Wednesday of the month will have to wait until the next day.” The hope is that the one-day closing will prevent additional closings.
California Courts – the nation’s courts are watching. We wish you the best!