What is Access to Justice

What is Access to Justice?

“Access to justice” describes the ability of any person, regardless of income, to use the justice system to solve common legal problems and advocate for themselves and their interests.

Oklahomans turn to the civil justice system when they are facing life-changing challenges such as domestic violence, child custody disputes, eviction, foreclosure, discrimination, consumer debt, or the loss of veterans’, health, or disability benefits. Unlike the criminal justice system, there is no right to an attorney in civil justice matters.

The civil legal system is complex and difficult to navigate without the help of an attorney. When people represent themselves in court, filing fees, procedural rules, and confusion about the law are barriers to fair and just outcomes.

Unfortunately, many people, particularly those who are low-income, cannot afford an attorney. Free legal services are available through Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma and other providers, but these providers must turn away more than half of those who quality for services due to a lack of funding.

As a result, many Oklahomans must face the complexity of the civil justice system on their own. For example, a victim of domestic violence may have to represent herself in court to obtain protection from an abusive partner. A veteran may have to fight for his benefits without the assistance of a lawyer. A low-income worker may be wrongfully evicted.

Every Oklahoman should have equal access to the justice system, regardless of where they live, who they are, or how much money they make. Ensuring equal access protects the most vulnerable members of our community, while promoting a strong economy, public safety, and fairness for all.

The Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission aims to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Oklahomans.