The Justice Gap
More and more people facing legal issues and problems can’t afford to hire a lawyer. Some people are able to get a free lawyer through legal aid, but not very many. That means there are many people with no choice but to try to solve legal problems and use the courts on their own. That is the Justice Gap.
So often we see on TV that one of your “rights” is “if you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you.” Well, that is only true when you are charged with a crime, so for a criminal case. If you are dealing with family issues or housing issues or debt collection issues, those are all civil matters. There is no right to an attorney for civil matters. Even though someone is not facing jail, they could be facing a loss of housing, a loss of income or a disconnection from family – life altering issues for all of us.
People caught in the Justice Gap have no choice but to do their own legal work even if it means representing themselves in court. But there are places to get help when you are on your own. The Legal Assistance Center is a legal self help center. It is a place where anyone can come for free legal information, forms, resources and other tools to help when facing legal problems alone. At the LAC, we are working to bridge the Justice Gap.