Legal Deserts: a Multi-State Perspective on Rural Access to Justice

106 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2018 Last revised: 23 Sep 2018

See all articles by Lisa R. Pruitt

Lisa R. Pruitt

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Amanda L. Kool

Harvard University, Law School - Faculty, Transactional Law Clinics

Lauren Sudeall

Georgia State University College of Law

Michele Statz

University of Minnesota - Duluth - School of Medicine

Danielle M. Conway

University of Maine School of Law

Hannah Haksgaard

University of South Dakota School of Law

Date Written: June 18, 2018

Abstract

Rural America faces an increasingly dire access to justice crisis, which serves to exacerbate the already disproportionate share of social problems afflicting rural areas. One critical aspect of that crisis is the dearth of information and research regarding the extent of the problem and its impacts. This article begins to address that gap by providing surveys of rural access to justice in six geographically, demographically, and economically varied states: California, Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. In addition to providing insights about the distinct rural challenges confronting each of these states, the legal resources available, and existing policy responses, the article explores common themes that emerge through this multi-state lens, thus framing a richer, broader discussion of rural access to justice, with particular attention to the rural attorney shortage.

Written for a special issue on “Revitalizing Rural,” the article ultimately proposes a two-step approach toward closing the rural justice gap. First, although the information presented here provides a solid foundation, a critical need remains for ongoing careful and thoughtful study of the legal needs and lack of legal resources in rural areas. Second, the unique institutional, structural, and demographic characteristics of rural areas will require tailored, innovative, and data-driven solutions to match appropriate legal services with needs. We advocate a re-thinking of the roles of many justice system stakeholders, with particular attention to the critical steps that legal educators should take to bridge the justice gap. Our hope is that this article will inform and expand access-to-justice conversations so that they more intentionally address the legal needs of the vast rural reaches of our nation, thus furthering the ultimate goal of realizing access to justice for all Americans.

Keywords: rural, geography, legal profession, lawyers, access to justice, attorney shortage, urban, nonmetropolitan, population loss, legal education, modest means, low income, law school, Minnesota, California, Maine, Wisconsin, Georgia, South Dakota, nonmetro, nonmetropolitan, metropolitan

Suggested Citation

Pruitt, Lisa R. and Kool, Amanda L. and Sudeall, Lauren and Statz, Michele and Conway, Danielle M. and Haksgaard, Hannah, Legal Deserts: a Multi-State Perspective on Rural Access to Justice (June 18, 2018). 12 Harvard Law & Policy Review (forthcoming 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3198411

Lisa R. Pruitt (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

Amanda L. Kool

Harvard University, Law School - Faculty, Transactional Law Clinics ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Lauren Sudeall

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

Michele Statz

University of Minnesota - Duluth - School of Medicine ( email )

1035 University Drive
Duluth, MN 55812-3031
United States

Danielle M. Conway

University of Maine School of Law ( email )

246 Deering Avenue
Portland, ME 04102
United States

Hannah Haksgaard

University of South Dakota School of Law ( email )

414 East Clark Street
Vermillion, SD 57-69
United States
605-677-6360 (Phone)
605-677-5417 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.usd.edu/faculty-and-staff/Hannah-Haksgaard

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