732 Topics in Access to Justice

“Access to justice” (sometimes denominated “A2J”) is a multidimensional concept that eludes easy definition. This course will use the term expansively, to capture the ways in which our civil legal system does or does not respond to the legal needs of ordinary people.
This course will examine the structural obstacles that impede access to civil justice as well as contemporary opportunities for reform. Access barriers can have a variety of sources. Barriers can be doctrinal (e.g., the civil right to counsel), practical (e.g., courts’ ability to accommodate non-English-speaking litigants), economic (e.g., the rise of binding arbitration), or political (e.g., limited funding for legal aid offices), and nearly all are multifactorial. Similarly, opportunities for improvement can be found in doctrine, institutional design, community engagement, and technology. Compared to a course on substantive law, our focus will be on the institutional, procedural, and practical dimensions of the access problem.

The course will be divided into roughly three components. In Part I, we will consider theories and doctrines of civil legal access. In Part II, we will consider institutional and procedural features that shape access to our civil legal system, as well as the roles of different actors and constituencies in the civil justice system, including: lawyers and the legal profession; self-represented litigants; community organizations; courts; and non-judicial government institutions. In Part III, we will consider a handful of “pressure points” in access to civil justices—that is, areas of the law where legal needs are especially significant, and where access is especially challenging. Among the areas will consider will be family law, housing law, consumer law and consumer bankruptcy, and immigration law. Solutions and opportunities for change will be discussed throughout all three parts of the course.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, four response papers and a research proposal.

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
  • Reflective Writing
  • Class participation
  • Other
Degree Requirements
Course Type
  • Seminar
Learning Outcomes
  • Knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law
  • Legal analysis and reasoning, legal research, problem-solving, and written and oral communication in the legal context

Spring 2023

2023
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

732.01 2
  • Reflective Writing
  • Class participation
  • Other
Jonathan Petkun Th 10:30 AM - 12:20 PM 4046

“Access to justice” (sometimes denominated “A2J”) is a multidimensional concept that eludes easy definition. This course will use the term expansively, to capture the ways in which our civil legal system does or does not respond to the legal needs of ordinary people.
This course will examine the structural obstacles that impede access to civil justice as well as contemporary opportunities for reform. Access barriers can have a variety of sources. Barriers can be doctrinal (e.g., the civil right to counsel), practical (e.g., courts’ ability to accommodate non-English-speaking litigants), economic (e.g., the rise of binding arbitration), or political (e.g., limited funding for legal aid offices), and nearly all are multifactorial. Similarly, opportunities for improvement can be found in doctrine, institutional design, community engagement, and technology. Compared to a course on substantive law, our focus will be on the institutional, procedural, and practical dimensions of the access problem.

The course will be divided into roughly three components. In Part I, we will consider theories and doctrines of civil legal access. In Part II, we will consider institutional and procedural features that shape access to our civil legal system, as well as the roles of different actors and constituencies in the civil justice system, including: lawyers and the legal profession; self-represented litigants; community organizations; courts; and non-judicial government institutions. In Part III, we will consider a handful of “pressure points” in access to civil justices—that is, areas of the law where legal needs are especially significant, and where access is especially challenging. Among the areas will consider will be family law, housing law, consumer law and consumer bankruptcy, and immigration law. Solutions and opportunities for change will be discussed throughout all three parts of the course.

Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, four response papers and a research proposal.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.