Week Four: Determining How to Increase Access to Justice Systems

When it comes to lack of access to justice systems and issues regarding the rule of law, there are often various and numerous underlying causes. It could be lack of a formal justice system, lack of an independent judicial institution due to corruption, lack of knowledge and awareness of an existing justice system and how to use it, etc.

In the country whose rule of law I have been researching throughout my internship, many of these underlying causes limit access to justice and are compounded by other factors, such as geographic isolation and few existing attorneys in country. For instance, although a formal justice system does exist, its reach is limited as there are approximately only 300 attorneys in the country, a majority of which are in the capital city and practice private law. This leaves populations in outer, predominantly rural regions without access to representation and affordable defense attorneys. Furthermore, while there are informal, customary judicial systems in place to bolster the rule of law in outer regions, there is often corruption diluting the service of justice and a lack of knowledge of legal rights, the available systems and how to use them.

I am working to find solutions to each of these problems, so that the justice system may be accessible to the population as a whole and rights may be protected. One way to inform rural populations of the formal and informal systems that exist is to implement an advertising campaign, along with utilizing a mass text messaging system to spread information. Increasing the number of attorneys, especially those that will practice defense in rural regions, is a more difficult issue to tackle. As engineering and medicine are considered more certain and profitable careers, many have no interest in going into law. Furthermore, with the high cost of tuition for law school and exams, the average $400 received for defense work is a deterrent to that type of practice. I am continuing my research on how best to increase the number of attorneys in country generally, and how to entice them to practice defense in rural areas so that all may have equitable access to justice and the protection of their rights. I look forward to sharing more of my findings on potential solutions to this issue.