Laurence H. Tribe, a professor at Harvard whose 40-year career includes serving as senior counselor at the Department of Justice for access to justice, recently made a speech declaring that justice in America needs to be not only preserved, but also restored. By restoring justice, Professor Tribe meant it’s time for lawyers to take a step back and analyze the structural problems in our legal system.
“Little of the energy of our profession goes to preventing systemic problems,” he said. Instead, more energy is spent on protecting turf, in the sense that the courts attempt to protect their jurisdictional authority rather than actually trying to solve problems.
“Unless we make a real difference in the way we as lawyers are viewed, we will likely hit a low ceiling when we try to squeeze money from state legislatures,” he said when discussing the dire problem of state courts being underfunded and overburdened with large case loads.
In particular, Tribe highlighted the need for access to justice for “the struggling middle class,” according to abanow.org.
Since our law firm features lawyers who actually go to court on a regular basis, we have witnessed, first hand, the deficiencies in our justice system. Special interest groups have successfully lobbied our state legislatures to get arbitrary caps placed on medical malpractice recoveries for innocent victims and some states are considering instituting “loser pays” laws. These laws are designed to scare away victims who don’t have access to a lot of money from pursuing a claim in court.
Insurance companies and big corporations love these types of laws and are major proponents of damage caps and health care courts since it allows them to save money, even when a victim is seriously injured by blatant negligence.
We agree with Professor Tribe that the middle class of America needs be placed in the forefront when conducting a review of how our legal system works. Far too many hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Americans are being deterred or disenfranchised by the way our court system works and major changes need to be considered.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.