February 26, 2019 Feature

Pro Bono Is the Key to Expanding Access to Our Courts

By Michael G. Bergmann and Brent Page

Thousands of Americans step into courtrooms across the country each year—many of these individuals are facing serious legal issues, are scared, and are without the knowledge needed to represent themselves adequately. They take off work to file one-sentence petitions that are later thrown out on technicalities. Their voices are ignored by judges or silenced by opposing counsels with objections. Or they fear the system and give up before even stepping through the courthouse doors. Despite the widely held belief that every citizen deserves equal opportunity in our legal system, and the hard work of legal aid attorneys and efforts of advocates to reform the court system, there is still a large number of people who are unable to adequately engage with the legal system when they have a legal problem. In many instances, economic, institutional, and structural barriers limit their access to justice.

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