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Judicial Abdication and Equal Access to the Civil Justice System

31 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2010  

Gene R. Nichol

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: February 11, 2010


The massive chasm which exists between American claims of equal justice and the reality of a civil adjudication system that excludes millions because they can't afford to hire a lawyer is well known. This article explores one cornerstone of our national embarrassment - "poor people's justice" - the decisions and the obligations of judges. Judges - state and federal - shoulder a singular and defining role in creating, maintaining and assuring open, effective and meaningful access to the system of justice they administer. United States Supreme Court justices, inferior federal court judges, state supreme court justices, and state trial and appellate jurists work atop a massive, monopolistic, government-proffered, violence-secured system for the orderly resolution of civil disputes. They set, quite literally, the constitutive markers of legitimate judicial decision-making. But by ignoring the exclusion from our civil regime which occurs for those unable to afford counsel, American judges have abdicated this central mission.

Suggested Citation

Nichol, Gene R., Judicial Abdication and Equal Access to the Civil Justice System (February 11, 2010). Case Western Reserve Law Review, Forthcoming; UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1551586. Available at SSRN:

Gene R. Nichol (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
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