Category Archives: Access to Justice

Upcoming Panel: “Addressing the Gap in Civil Legal Services: Serving Underrepresented Clients & Communities” – Washington, DC, Feb. 13, 2016 at 10:45 am

As part of my school’s celebration of a new building, the school is hosting the following panel, so if you know of people in DC who would be interested, please share:

Addressing the Gap in Civil Legal Services: Serving Underrepresented Clients & Communities
Discussion of the range of public interest law activities and jobs that students and graduates engage in, focusing on how people engage in public interest law at different stages of their careers. Additional topics may include the place of public interest law at the law school, the challenges and rewards of doing public interest work, and how lawyers can find meaning and fulfillment through work and service.

Moderator: Professor Susan Bennett
Panelists: Jeanne Atkinson (’91), Catholic Legal Immigration Network; Lisa Dewey (’93), Pro Bono Partner, DLA Piper; Antonia Fasanelli (’01), Executive Director, Homeless Persons Representation Project; Lora Rath (’91), Director, Office of Compliance and Enforcement, Legal Services Corporation; Naznin Saifi (’92), Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center; Zafar Shah (’08), Staff Attorney, Public Justice Center; Bradford Voegeli (’11), Staff Attorney, Neighborhood Legal Services Project
Student Ambassadors: Alejandra Arias (’19) and Jordan Helton (’18)

More info on registering can be found here (and it is first come first served with registration closing on Feb. 8 at noon).

Call-for-Papers:”A Workshop on Vulnerability and Social Justice”

Call-for-Papers: A Workshop on Vulnerability and Social Justice, June 17-18, 2016, University of Leeds, UK.


Workshop Details:

The Workshop begins Friday at 4PM in the Moot Court Room, the Liberty Building, University of Leeds. Dinner will follow the panel presentation session on Friday. Panel presentations continue on Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5PM; breakfast and lunch will be provided.


Submission Procedure:

Email a proposal as a Word or PDF document by March 1, 2016 to Antony Butcher ( and Rachel Ezrol (


Decisions will be made by March 25, 2016 and working paper drafts will be due May 20, 2016so they can be duplicated and distributed prior to the Workshop.

The terms “vulnerability” and “social justice” have been used with increasing frequency in recent years. Both are often invoked in alternative, sometimes incompatible ways. In this workshop we are interested in exploring what these terms mean, individually and in relation to each other,  in everyday, political, and professional usage, as well as their potential as “terms of art” for furthering substantive progressive change.


The Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative (VHC) uses the concept of vulnerability to challenge the dominant conception of the universal legal subject as an autonomous, independent and fully-functioning adult. Rather than building our systems of law and justice upon this static figment of the liberal imagination, the VHC approach argues for a socially and materially dynamic vulnerable legal subject, based on a richer account of how actual peoples’ lives are shaped by an inherent and constant state of vulnerability across the life-course. Vulnerability in this approach is a universalizing concept that focuses on relationships, institutions, needs, and shared or collective responsibility. It asserts there should be political and legal implications for the fact that we live within a fragile materiality that renders us constantly susceptible to change, both positive and negative, in our bodily and our social circumstances. Such vulnerability may be realized in the form of dependency on others for care, cooperation, or assistance or it may manifest through our dependency on social arrangements, such as the family or the market and economy.


The Centre for Law & Social Justice (L&SJ) explores the role that law has in addressing inequalities and achieving a more just society. L&SJ provides a home for researchers who come from very different intellectual and theoretical traditions, and whose substantive foci cover the spectrum of contemporary concerns. Yet all members share in recognizing the importance of securing access to a range of rights and resources as a baseline for respecting human dignity. Through a number of different theoretical frameworks – including vulnerability theory, the capabilities approach, human rights, embodiment theory, and Marxist and feminist approaches -L&SJ explores various articulations of standards, needs, and our expectations of both state and non-state actors.


Nevertheless, social justice is a term susceptible to different emphases and meanings, both within and between jurisdictions. Some commentators have pointed out that there may be a tension between the pursuit of social justice and neoliberal tendencies to hold individual freedom or liberty as paramount; others see the development of individual well-being and flourishing as necessary for collective advancement and as such compatible with a focus on freedom and liberty. However, the pursuit of social justice may mean it is sometimes necessary to put collective objectives ahead of individual interests and desires. While such tensions can be overcome, the contemporary emphasis on individual rights and freedoms – particularly in the US – can and have been adopted to undercut arguments for state regulation and intervention. Further, the turn to austerity has weakened commitments to social justice even in welfare orientated states. This workshop aims to explore the relationship between vulnerability and social justice, and the role of the responsive state in promoting both individual and institutional resilience.

New Article: “Charging The Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons”

New Article: Neil L. Sobol, “Charging the Poor: Criminal Justice Debt & Modern-Day Debtors’ Prisons,” 75 Maryland L. Rev. (Forthcoming).

Conference: “Advancing Equal Access to Justice: Barriers, Dilemmas, and Prospects”

Conference: “Advancing Equal Access to Justice: Barriers, Dilemmas, and Prospects” at UC-Hastings, Nov. 12-13, 2015.

New Article: “Zooming Past the Monopoly: A Consumer Rights Approach to Reforming the Lawyer’s Monopoly and Improving Access to Justice”

Monopoly-291x300New Article: Lauren Moxley, Zooming Past the Monopoly: A Consumer Rights Approach to Reforming the Lawyer’s Monopoly and Improving Access to Justice, 9 Harv. L. & Pol’y Rev. 553 (2015).

New Article: ““I Do for My Kids”: Negotiating Race and Racial Inequality in Family Court”

New Article: Tonya L. Brito, David J. Pate, Jr. & Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong, “I Do for My Kids”: Negotiating Race and Racial Inequality in Family Court, 83 Fordham L. Rev. 3027 (2015).

Guiding Families to a Fair Day in Court –

Guiding Families to a Fair Day in Court –

New Article: “Roadblocks to Access to Justice: Reforming Ethical Rules to Meet the Special Needs of Low-Income Clients”

New Article: Louis S. Rulli, Roadblocks to Access to Justice: Reforming Ethical Rules to Meet the Special Needs of Low-Income Clients, 17 U. Penn. J.L. & Soc. Change 347 (2014).  Abstract below:

The nation’s growing justice gap has left the poor with far too little access to legal representation, even in the most serious of civil matters. With poverty rates approaching their highest levels in the last fifty years, the poor struggle to hold on to their homes, their jobs, and their families, frequently overmatched by superior resources and an abundance of opposing lawyers representing corporations, government, and well-heeled interests. Non-profit lawyers struggle to provide limited assistance to the poor in high volume, community settings, or in courtroom corridors and on telephone hot lines. It is in these non-traditional settings that lawyers should ask whether the Model Rules of Professional Conduct promote or hinder access to justice? Or, stated differently, have the Model Rules kept pace with a rapidly changing legal environment that increasingly departs from the traditional lawyering paradigm upon which our ethical rules are largely based?

Model Rule 6.5, one of the few new ethical rules adopted over the past fifteen years aimed directly at serving the poor, can be seen as proof that certain ethical restrictions on lawyers may be relaxed safely in non-profit settings, without doing any harm to the legal profession or the public. Still, this rule hardly goes far enough. Ethical restrictions on lawyers relating to document assistance, financial assistance to clients, and withdrawal of representation, to name just a few, are grounded on assumptions applicable to a profit-making paradigm. Rather than promoting legitimate interests, these limitations hinder access to justice for the poor. Comprehensive reform of our ethical rules is long overdue. The ABA should form a blue-ribbon commission designed to examine the Model Rules from the perspective of how legal services are increasing delivered to the poor and accessed by low-income communities. The members of a blue-ribbon commission should be drawn heavily from leaders of legal aid and pro bono organizations, along with state court judges, who have deep experience with the delivery of legal services to underserved communities.

New Article: “Demand Side Reform in the Poor People’s Court”

New Article: Jessica K. Steinberg, Demand Side Reform in the Poor People’s Court, 47 Conn. L. Rev. 741 (2015).  Abstract below:

A crisis in civil justice has seized the lowest rungs of state court where the great majority of American justice is meted out. Nineteen million civil cases are filed each year in the so-called “poor people’s court,” and seventy to ninety-eight percent of those matters involve an unrepresented litigant who is typically low-income and often a member of a vulnerable population. This Article challenges the predominant scholarly view in favor of “supply side” remedies for improving access to justice—that is, remedies focused exclusively on supplying counsel to litigants, either through adoption of “civil Gideon,” a universal civil right to counsel, or through the provision of “unbundled,” or limited, legal services—arguing that such an approach is practically and conceptually unworkable. Courts and legislatures have rejected attempts to expand a civil right to counsel and initial data suggests that the delivery of limited legal services produces anemic, if any, improvements in substantive fairness for the unrepresented. This Article sets forth a vision of “demand side” procedural and judicial reform as an alternative, or complementary, theory of civil justice. Demand side reform would charge courts, rather than parties, with the duty to advance cases and develop legally relevant narratives, thereby focusing on institutional change that would strengthen due process for the great majority of litigants in the American justice system. This proposal builds upon the Supreme Court’s recent holding in Turner v. Rogers that “alternative procedural safeguards” must be implemented to ensure due process for civil contemnors, and offers unrepresented litigants a viable mechanism for dispute resolution that—unlike the supply side approach— does not perpetuate court processes requiring party initiative and expertise.

New Article: “How a Civil Right to Counsel Can Help Dismantle Concentrated Poverty in America’s Inner Cities”

New Article: Pamela Cardullo Ortiz, How a Civil Right to Counsel Can Help Dismantle Concentrated Poverty in America’s Inner Cities, 25 Stan.L.& Pol’y Rev. 163 (2014).  Abstract below:

This Article addresses the challenge of concentrated poverty and suggests that the creation of a civil right to counsel can be a powerful opportunity to enhance low-income inner-city neighborhoods, to empower those who live there, and to create new opportunities, new choices, and socio-economic mobility in our cities. It will explore several strategies that have been proposed for improving neighborhood conditions and promoting mobility and discuss the potential legal strategies that might be employed by poor residents in advancing these strategies.