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ABA President: Underfunded Courts Threaten Equal Justice

Posted Feb 14, 2011 10:37 AM CDT

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Corrected: The promise of equal justice under law is under threat because of the underfunding of the justice system, ABA President Stephen N. Zack told the ABA House of Delegates on Monday.

Above the U.S. Supreme Court’s pillars, “it doesn’t say equal justice for the rich, the powerful, or for the momentary majority. It cannot be equal justice under law if our states devote just 1 percent of their budgets to the justice system,” said Zack, the administrative partner in the Miami office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

“The court system is closing down before our very eyes. Equal justice doesn’t mean four days of the week the court is open. Equal justice means access. We are fighting around the world for the rule of law, and it exists because of access. Eighty percent of poor people don’t have access to our courts,” Zack said.

At a hearing of the ABA’s Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System last week, judges said that in some courts, filings are not being accepted because they can’t afford paper to make copies. In New Hampshire, civil jury trials were suspended for various periods in 2009 to save money.

Zack also decried the proposed $70 million in Legal Services Corp. budget cuts.

The cuts in state courts and the LSC are occurring because “our country stopped testing on civics,” Zack said. Approximately 75 percent of all Americans don’t know that the First Amendment protects religious freedom, he said. Half of Americans who are read the Bill of Rights and asked its origin think it’s a Communist document, he said.

To address that problem, ABA-sponsored civics academies are going to be held across the country this spring for lawyers to teach civics to high school students, he said.

Last updated Friday to note that jury trials in New Hampshire were suspended for various periods of time by county in 2009.


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