equal access to justice | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: General Term

Equal access to justice is the principle that all individuals, regardless of their background or economic status, should have access to legal services and the courts.

Equal access to justice means that everyone, regardless of their economic or social status, race, gender, or any other characteristic, has the right to seek and obtain justice on an equal footing with others. It means that no one should be denied access to the legal system, including the courts and legal representation, based on their inability to pay or any other discriminatory reason.

Access to justice is a fundamental human right that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international legal instruments. It is also a key element of the rule of law, which requires that the law be applied equally to all people, without discrimination.

However, in practice, many people around the world are denied equal access to justice. This can be due to a range of factors, including poverty, social exclusion, discrimination, and geographical isolation. These barriers can prevent people from accessing legal services, understanding their legal rights, and obtaining redress for violations of those rights.

One of the key barriers to equal access to justice is poverty. Many people cannot afford to pay for legal services and may not be eligible for legal aid or other forms of assistance. This can leave them without legal representation and unable to defend their rights in court or obtain compensation for the harm that has been done to them.

Another barrier is social exclusion and discrimination. People from marginalized groups, such as ethnic minorities, women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people with disabilities, may face discrimination and bias within the legal system, making it harder for them to access justice. They may also face additional barriers, such as a lack of information or cultural barriers that prevent them from understanding their legal rights.

Geographical isolation is another barrier to equal access to justice. People who live in remote or rural areas may have limited access to legal services and may have to travel long distances to reach a courthouse or legal aid office. This can make it difficult or impossible for them to access justice, particularly if they have limited financial resources.

To promote equal access to justice, governments, civil society organizations, and legal professionals must work together to identify and address the barriers that prevent people from accessing the legal system. This may involve providing legal aid and other forms of assistance to people who cannot afford legal services, increasing public awareness of legal rights, and addressing bias and discrimination within the legal system.

It may also involve improving access to information, including legal information, and using technology to make legal services more accessible to people in remote or rural areas. This could include the use of mobile legal clinics, online resources, and videoconferencing to connect people with legal professionals.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/26/2023


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