Priorities for the Justice System: Responding to the Most Urgent Legal Problems of Individuals
TISCO Working Paper No. 001/2008
51 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2008 Last revised: 23 Dec 2012
Date Written: March 2008
At some points in their lives, people experience legal problems that induce justice needs: they need protection by outside norms or interventions that structure the conduct of other persons. In this paper, we attempt to identify the most prevalent and urgent legal problems of individuals.
We start with an intuitive list of twelve categories of legal problems that frequently occur in the law and development literature and in access to justice research. Then we use six approaches, each with their own strengths and blind spots, that give indications of the frequency and urgency of these legal problems: (1) information regarding the frequency of the problems from legal needs surveys conducted in eight countries; (2) data from these surveys about the typical impact of these problems on people's lives; (3) court specializations in sixteen countries; (4) estimates of the value of the interests that individuals wish to protect against threats from outsiders; (5) estimates of the typical costs of self-protection; and (6) estimates of the typical size of specific investments that a person will lose if he leaves the threatening situation. These approaches (not representing a rigorous empirical methodology) give some guidance for the process of setting priorities in justice systems that aim to be responsive to these needs. We discuss the policy implications for governments, donors in the area of law and development, and private suppliers of norms and interventions. In particular we speculate about the types of norms that may be an answer to the categories of legal problems, the types of interventions that may fit these legal problems, the possible consequences for specialization of court and other legal services, as well as the capacity that may be needed to deal with each category of legal problems. Our exploration of urgent legal problems and the most effective ways to meet justice needs suggests that there are many gaps between the type of protection that individuals need, and what legal systems are able to deliver.
Keywords: Legal problem, Justice need, Norm, Intervention
JEL Classification: D23, D63, D74, I31, K10, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation