The present essay examines the validity in the statement “Law gives everyone equal access to justice” critically in the light of the various evidences pertaining to the context of the ‘socioeconomic disparities” existing in the society. The essay critically evaluates the truth in this statement which is a highly debated and controversial subject invoking mixed responses in the light of the viewpoints of thinkers like Marx and Weber and statistical facts. It presents an argument to prove that the statement lacks solid grounding and there are huge disparities in the access to justice among the members of the members of different classes.
The past research on the subject has indicated that a small percentage of the legal issues faced by the disadvantaged low‐income U.S. inhabitants are able to get the appropriate legal representation for the protection of their rights as these population chunks are troubled due to legal entanglements in the cases of domestic violence, eviction, workplace or employment discrimination, deportation, foreclosure, termination of medical assistance or subsistence income for unlawful reasons, losing custody of their child and so on. According to the statistics hardly 20% cases in United States are addressed with the help of appropriate legal representation (Legal Services Corporation, 2009). In the case of the immigration proceedings as well as in the civil cases the US constitution does not make any provision for the right to counsel. However a presumption has been created by the Supreme Court not to appoint counsel in the civil cases involving the imbalance of physical liberty for example, in the famous Turner v. Rogers (2011) case it refused to identify an appropriate category of right to counsel. This has resulted in the disparity in meeting the civil legal needs harming the rights of the minorities like women, racial and ethnic subgroups as well as the immigrants besides the other socioeconomically disadvantaged sections of population. The present essay furnishes evidence to prove that “Law gives everyone equal access to justice” is certainly a myth.
Impact of monetary affluence
As one examines the expenditures incurred on the private court cases against the number of the publicly funded cases the gross deviances are evident. The government tends to rescue the interests of the poor by providing them the necessary funds to hire a lawyer at nominal cost for representing their cases adequately in the court but many times these funds/lawyers are not easily available to the poor people and hence they often have to resort to the self-representation of their cases. In cases where such a lawyer is available too, the problems do not end as the government lawyers have bleak chances of winning the cases owing to lack of professional knowledge as well as intrinsic motivation. The poor people who may not be at fault do not have access to the appropriate legal advice that can help them defend their case more strongly in courts thereby resulting in loss in their cases. The access to knowing the insights that can prove that they are on the right side of the law also comes with a cost to pay.
The independent research studies have shown that the earning of the single law firm that is catering to around one hundred clients runs to one billion US dollars approximately while the overall budget that has been reserved by the US federal government to cater to the population of around forty million poor citizens is around three hundred million dollars on an approximate, this reveals the disheartening facet of truth behind the above mentioned statement (Powell, 2000). The report published by Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in the year 1999 exhibited evidence that the government’s proportion of civil legal services accounted by the federal, state as well as local governments all together is extremely small (American Association of Law Libraries, 2014). The statistics reveal that the situation is being worse day by day. As one examines the data for the year 2000, it is shown that the overall expenditure incurred by the US government to provide civil legal services to the poor was approximately 600 million US dollars that was less than even one percent of the total expenditures made on lawyers in America in the same year, falling around 130 billion US dollars on an approximate (US Bureau Of The Census, 2000). This confirms the fact that there is surely a mismatch between the magnitude of government support required and the one that is actually furnished for the representation of lower class. In addition to this, the analysis of the trends across the lawyers appointed via the government legal aid system and the privately paid lawyers between the year 1993 and 2000 depicted a sharp decline of around 65% decline. These statistics yield sufficient evidence to show that the opportunity of equal law as granted by the 1948 General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) claiming that, “Everyone is equal the eyes of the law” is restricted in scope (General Assembly resolution 217 A (III), 1948 ). The critics also put an argument lamenting that the lawyers appointed through government are sufficient enough to impart the provision of equal access to justice but at the same time it is important to see the quality of professional help this system is able to impart.
It is very much clear from the above facts that the amount of money being spent is surely making an adverse influence in the court room by shifting the balance towards the more powerful and here the power is also defined in terms of the affluence of the party in question.
Impact of education
As one examines the differences across the educated and the less-educated or uneducated segments of the society the validity of the above statement is jeopardized. It may be explained in terms of the better pay-offs for the educated segments in terms of their knowledge, social connections as well as ability to manipulate to represent the facts in their favor. The recent years have witnessed a large number of people resorting to the practice of self-representation of their cases owing to the enhanced civil access and opportunities of mediation thereby making education emerge as a prominent determining factor in influencing the accessibility to the law (Special Commitee on Accsess to Justice). It has been observed that poor people have restricted access to better education facilities owing to their low awareness, limited means, lack of interest in activities that are financially not lucrative and number of other factors (Parloff, 2000). This has also become a major barrier in denying them an access to justice in the same way as availed by the educated lots.
Another way which shows the impact of education on the fair accessibility to law and opportunity of justice is in the attitude and expertise of the lawyers appointed by the government and the ones who are private or corporate lawyers. There is a wide gap in the education, experience and the approach of the lawyers from these two domains (Garland, 1985). The career of the private lawyer is put at stake every time he/she is involved in case as the prospects of having future clients depend entirely on the word of mouth publicity that he/she will earn based on the success of the cases he/she was arguing. The more expert a lawyer is and the more likelihood he/she has for winning the cases owing to superior professional knowledge and vast experience, the more money he/she can charge for his/her advice as a commission. Thus such a lawyer will make an extra effort to win a case and the rewards for the hard working people are infinite. However, such zeal to win the case would not be present in the lawyers appointed by the government as they are not affected much in financial terms despite losing the case. This has led the private lawyers with a positive image and high credibility to charge exorbitant amounts as commission for their legal consultancy. This surely puts the people at a disadvantage against the qualified lawyers particularly if they themselves are not much educated. In cases that involve mediation where in both the parties are representing their own cases, the more educated party surely commands an advantage over the other (Robins, 2014).
This again proves that the accessibility to justice is again dependent upon the level of education which in turn depends upon the socioeconomic status of a person indicating the relevance of the above statement in all contexts is questionable.
Variations in Repercussions following legal punishment
The perspective offered by Marx establishes law in terms of two different orientations i.e. class specificity and its class character. According to the first orientation that perceives law with a class character considers it as a controlled instrument aimed at protecting the interests of the ruling or bourgeois class (Marx and Engels, 1948). Thus law in this perspective is based on capitalist economic relations. Marxian perspective laments that the poor are often sacrificed for legal tenets that are often shaped by class interests. He states that though the form of law is impartial but its content is partial; the rule of law is the same for everyone but its application to different classes is unequal, the substance of law being prejudiced to serve the interests of the bourgeois class. Though it is assumed that before law all are the same but our societal structure does not abide by this philosophy. Marxist theories of ideology exhibit that the use of the various legal ideals like the concepts of equality, freedom and justice reproduce uneven class relations reflecting class interests of dominant groups. The prison system as well as the other procedures to enforce law aim to deter people from exhibiting negative deviances from the acceptable norms, behavior and conduct (Johnson, 2002). However the impact of these punishments will not be the same for the different socio economic strata. It is very much possible for a rich person to restore to his normal routine activities after any imprisonment or punishment but the impact of the same on a poor person may be inevitable. A poor person with a criminal background would find no takers to give him employment while a rich person will be given adequate support by his social connections owing to his status. For Weber, legal action and thought are linked with the rationalization process and its form is shaped by socioeconomic forces. He advocates the notion of substantive irrationality in justice where in the decisions are governed by individual cases on the basis of emotional evaluations arbitrarily not as per the general norm.
Thus summing up the arguments as discussed above it can be said that the various factors including the monetary affluence, the social connections as well as the education among the various other socioeconomic indicators tend to distort the validity of the statement that “Law gives everyone equal access to justice”. It is harsh but true that the law does not have a concern for the environmental factors that motivate the crime but weighs it against the evidences for crime only. In addition to this, the court also does not weigh the impact of the actions taken in the purview of the court room as they transcend into the realities of practical life for the situation for the already disadvantaged sections would be worse than before.
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