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Priorities for the Justice System: Responding to the Most Urgent Legal Problems of Individuals

The authors begin with an intuitive list of twelve categories of legal problems that frequently occur in the law and development literature and in access to justice research. They then use six approaches, each with their own strengths and blind spots, that give indications of the frequency and urgency of these legal problems: (1) information regarding the frequency of the problems from legal needs surveys conducted in eight countries; (2) data from these surveys about the typical impact of these problems on people’s lives; (3) court specializations in sixteen countries; (4) estimates of the value of the interests that individuals wish to protect against threats from outsiders; (5) estimates of the typical costs of self-protection; and (6) estimates of the typical size of specific investments that a person will lose if he leaves the threatening situation. These approaches (not representing a rigorous empirical methodology) give some guidance for the process of setting priorities in justice systems that aim to be responsive to these needs.

The authors discuss the policy implications for governments, donors in the area of law and development, and private suppliers of norms and interventions. In particular they speculate about the types of norms that may be an answer to the categories of legal problems, the types of interventions that may fit these legal problems, the possible consequences for specialization of court and other legal services, as well as the capacity that may be needed to deal with each category of legal problems. Their exploration of urgent legal problems and the most effective ways to meet justice needs suggests that there are many gaps between the type of protection that individuals need, and what legal systems are able to deliver.

Uploaded on: Mar 12, 2014
Last Updated: Dec 04, 2015
Year Published: 2008

Resource Tags

Resource Type: Practitioner Resources Issues: Criminal Justice, Legal Aid & Public Interest Law Tool Type: Policy Papers / Briefs, Reports / Research Method: Mediation & Conflict Resolution, Research Languages: English Regions: > Global