Former California State Bar President Jeff Bleich Discusses Access to Justice

Former California State Bar President, Jeff Bleich (2007-2008), discusses lack of access to adequate legal representation for much of America’s working class. Citing economic circumstance as the chief cause of unrepresented litigants, Mr. Bleich concludes the legal profession is not meeting the needs of a substantial portion of the public. Be sure to pick up the full article at the California State Bar Website link below:

As a nation, we would consider it intolerable if a large number of Americans had to choose an unqualified doctor, forego needed treatment, or perform surgery on themselves because they could not get proper medical care.

But every day, Californians who are at risk of losing things just as precious — their homes, their livelihood or their families — arrive at our courthouses having no idea what they need to do to protect themselves, and unable to hire someone else who could help them out. While in some cases, their issues can be addressed by the excellent court-based self-help centers across the state, in most cases they cannot. And so these Californians often make poor choices or face bad results, not because of the merits, but because they never had meaningful access to legal services.

The problem of access is as much a middle class problem as it is a problem for the poor. Most of the time, when we talk about access to justice, we focus only on the neediest members of society. This year, for example, the State Bar and other organizations properly devoted enormous effort to increasing funding for legal services for the poor. But even with increases in Legal Service Corporation funding, IOLTA resources and gifts and grants from our profession, we know that we will never come close to meeting the legal needs of people who are eligible for free legal services, let alone those who are not.