Each year, more than 30 million Americans encounter civil legal problems without the help of a lawyer. Many of the issues these individuals face, such as debt collection, eviction, foreclosure, child custody, and guardianship claims, can have profound, even life-changing, implications.
Outside of the criminal courts, litigants have no constitutional right to a lawyer, and affordable legal help is hard to come by. This lack of available support forces millions of people each year to sift through forms, search websites, and show up to court with little or no assistance. Often this leads to delays and increased costs for courts and litigants, as well as procedural errors that can cause cases to be decided without all parties having their day in court.
Many civil legal professionals, including judges and attorneys, as well as litigants, have noted that the system must be made more open, efficient, and equitable. However, no consensus exists regarding what courts or local and state policymakers can or should do to accomplish those goals.
The Pew Charitable Trusts’ civil legal system modernization project seeks to address this problem and to support efforts to deliver a system that is more accessible and effective through three key pathways:
- Identify and promote policies, processes, and technologies that can improve outcomes for civil litigants.
- Collaborate with state and local court officials to implement solutions and measure progress.
- Build partnerships with the private sector, policymakers, and other stakeholders to advance comprehensive improvement to the civil legal system.