In 2008 the Chief Justice of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C., convened an Action Committee on Access to Justice. The Action Committee recently released its final report that proposes a profound shift in the way courts, lawyers and litigants operate. Many of the recommendations are applicable to the justice system in the United States.
Here are some highlights of the report:
The cost of civil and family matters varies significantly. Nationally, costs of litigation based on legal fees are recently reported to be $13,561 – $37,229 for a civil action up to and including 2-day trial, $23,083 – $79,750 for a civil action up to and including a 5-day trial, $38,296 – $124,574 for a civil action up to and including a 7-day trial, and $12,333 – $36,750 for a civil action appeal.
Nearly 35% of the population will experience at least 1 legal problem in a given 3 year period. Few will have the resources to solve them. Of those who do not seek legal assistance, recent reports indicate that between 42% and 90% identified cost — or at least perceived cost — as the reason for not doing so.
According to one recent American study, as much as 70%- 90% of legal needs in society go unmet. There is a major gap between what legal services cost and what the vast majority of people can afford. Most people earn too much money to qualify for legal aid, but too little to afford the legal services necessary to meaningfully address any significant legal problem.
The civil and family justice system is too complex, too slow and too expensive. It is too often incapable of producing just outcomes that are proportional to the problems brought to it or reflective of the needs of the people it is meant to serve.