At approximately 9:00 on most weekday mornings, thousands of state civil courts open their doors and begin hearing cases. These cases involve hundreds of thousands of people acrossthe country. State civil courts are the core of America's civil justice system, whether measured by a raw number of cases or courts'impact on ordinary people's lives. These courts handle 98% of all civil matters filed each year – around 20 million cases.
Many people are pulled into civil court because they cannot pay their rent or debts. Many more come to court for help with intimate and family relationships, including those seeking a divorce, protection from abuse, custody of a child or guardianship of a family member with disabilities.
We are researchers, lawyers and professors who study civil justice. We have practiced in and studied state civil courts for almost two decades. We have observed court proceedings in multiple states for hundreds of hours; interviewed judges, court staff and lawyers; and analyzed case data. We have spoken with bar and judicial associations, researchers and policymakers from coast to coast. We have explored the impact of legal representation and its absence and the role of judges, paraprofessionals and court staff; we have also seen what happens when ordinary people represent themselves in court.
Courts | Law | State and Local Government Law
Anna E. Carpenter, Colleen F. Shanahan, Jessica K. Steinberg & Alyx Mark,
America's Lawyerless Courts: Legal Scholars Work to Recommend Large-Scale Changes in Lawyerless Civil Courts,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/4187