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Equal Access to Justice

August 08, 2022

Jim Sandman
Jim Sandman

Jim Sandman L’76  urges California legislators to amend a bill that would “prohibit reforms that are essential to allow people to exercise their civil rights.”

Jim Sandman L’76, Distinguished Lecturer and Senior Consultant to the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Future of the Profession Initiative, recently co-authored “Do our legislators believe in equal justice for all? Bill would kill civil justice system reform,” published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

In the opinion piece, Sandman and co-author Jason Solomon, executive director of the Deborah L. Rhode Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law, discuss the bill recently approved by the California Judiciary Committees that would block initiatives to make more affordable legal help available.

From the article:

 … Eighty-five percent of Californians — including millions of middle-income people — get no or inadequate help with their civil legal problems.

And the cases in which so many people lack lawyers involve the most basic of human needs: shelter, personal safety, family stability and financial support.

The civil legal system works for the privileged and the wealthy, but it flat-out fails tens of millions of low- and middle- income people every year.

The state of our civil legal system is a national and international embarrassment. In 2021, the World Justice Project ranked the United States 126th out of 139 countries on the accessibility and affordability of civil justice – and among the 46 wealthiest countries in the world, the United States ranked 46th.

In California, there are two important initiatives underway that would make more affordable legal help available, but the state Judiciary Committees just approved a bill that would block these initiatives and leave in place the indefensible status quo. Its enactment would enshrine the interests of lawyers above the interests of the owners of the legal system – the people. It would harm the public… .

Sandman has had a long and varied career in private practice with a big law firm, in government service, and as a public interest lawyer. He is President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation, the largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States, and was President of LSC from 2011 to 2020.

The Law School has bestowed upon Sandman both the Alumni Award of Merit and the Howard Lesnick Pro Bono Award. He has also received the District of Columbia Bar’s highest honor, the Justice William J. Brennan Jr. Award, as well as the Wiley A. Branton Award from the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Legal Rights and Urban Affairs, the Washington Council of Lawyers’ Presidents’ Award, and the American Bar Association’s Presidential Citation. 

Read the full piece at the Santa Cruz Sentinel.