In the modern world, justice goes to the person who can afford it. It would be nice to think that our criminal justice system works to give justice to those who deserve it, but it does not. In fact, often the opposite occurs: instead of justice goes to those who rightfully should have it, it goes to those who can pay for it. Scholars call justice a ‘market commodity,’ because, well, it can be bought and sold like one.
When I say that justice is a market commodity I mean it is like a product that goes the highest bidder. Most can only afford Walmart, but a certain segment of the population shops at Christies and Tiffanies. If you can afford it or have compensable return, you can get high profile lawyers that argue on your behalf in long, expensive court-proceedings. These experts at navigating the criminal justice system can tie people up in court, block justice processes, and can argue their way out of a North Korean jail. Many big companies simply threaten people with a lawsuit, and that is enough of a deterrent for most of us to Back Right Off and avoid year-long court ties-up with Executives who will never step foot in a court-themselves, and with contingency funds so large that no manager ever has to miss their Christmas bonus.
Access to justice simply means that justice is accessible to anyone—not determined by income, status, race, gender, ability, or cultural forces.
In our day and age when justice is not distributed fairly, it is important that every person is able to access low-cost, barrier free justice. In the UK, researchers are trying to design processes that affordable, easy-to-navigate, and occur within a short period of time. In Canada, the Federal Government has instituted Informal Conflict Management Systems (ICMS) in the public service in an effort to introduce informal, low-cost, needs-based approach to justice. At ResolveBC, we seek to provide families, companies, and communities with conflict resolution services that seek conciliatory outcomes—but avoid the stress, cost, and time of a court process.
In the world today, the people who deserve justice most have the least of it. That is because they have to pursue it themselves—through self-financing and self-advocacy, with minimal personnel and human resources, at a high cost of person stress and loss. Many give-up before the process is done, or are too afraid to initiate it, and that is completely understandable.
But if justice were accessible, available in a power-balanced way, made cost-effective and easy-to-navigate with timely processes, would it be worth giving it another shot?