The Role Of Data In An Access To Justice Movement


Law360 sourced an essay from Fordham Law Review Online co-authored by James Gamble, senior counsel and director of the Justice Index Project at the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School, and Amy Widman, deputy director of the National Center for Access to Justice at Fordham Law School that highlights the need for accurate data in the civil justice reform movement.

To get from the personal story to the complete picture requires more data than we currently have. Alongside the stories of individual families who have lost their homes, we need to be able to share with people that in the United States last year “x” thousand families were evicted without having had access to a lawyer to learn if the eviction was legal. And “x” thousand were ejected in foreclosure in states where landlords don’t even need to go to court to kick them out — just ask the sheriff to padlock the door. After we tell the story of the individuals who have lost whatever savings they had to debt collectors, we need to show people that “x” thousands of debt collection actions target the wrong people, are run by collection firms that don’t have the documents to prove the debts are even owed and use terror tactics to extract money from people who are already poor. After we tell the story of parents whose children are removed by the state without the provision of counsel, we need to let people know that there are “x” children and “x” parents whose lives are forever altered in this way.

Bringing people on board the access to justice movement requires the outrage and the demand for answers generated by personal stories. Keeping people committed requires that they see the scope of the problems, that they believe the source of the problems can be understood and that they trust that the people driving the movement have strategies to make the system better. Keeping people committed requires personal stories and expanded stories. It requires the complete picture.

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