To cut to the chase in my response to Justice Mead: the fundamental issue is how can democracy in America survive, if one of its major institutions, the Judiciary, is not fully and equally accessible to 74% of those 'pro se' (self representatives), who use family courts? The 74% ‘pro se’ statistic comes from a very reliable source and was personally communicated to me after I submitted my essay for March 12th publication. It is an astounding piece of data. For context, it should be noted that the ‘pro se’ percentage varies from state to state and province to province in Canada, but it is better than 50% virtually everywhere. Fundamentally, it means inequality of judicial service for the 74% that are forced by economics to do “do-it-yourself” lawyering.
In any democracy, courts of law are the major, socially approved "problem-solving" institution for society. And when this is drastically unequal, our courts are in the embarrassing position of offering a two tier quality of service. Good quality justice for those who pay; second class justice for that very large demographic, the economically disadvantaged middle class. It can only be seen as a major scandal for any democracy! It raises many questions: How long has this been developing, why hasn’t the public been made more aware, when may we expect solutions? My hunch is that current efforts at a repair of access to justice may suffer from the professional make up of those doing the problem-solving. An overbalance of lawyers in the problem-solving, for example, may skew the perspectives of the problem. Lawyers, after all, don’t have an access to justice problem!
It is nice to learn that The Justice Action Group is working on a solution, but the access to justice problem seems to be escaping them. As they work, it grows by leaps and bounds. The 74% 'pro se' statistic is not a static; it is growing both here in Maine and in other states. All the nice charitable basket of mini proposals that the Bar is developing, are not systemic solutions; they don’t touch 74%. They seem "tokenistic", a band aid on a metastatic cancer that will not stay covered.
Justice Mead et al need to look North to Canada and study some of the much more creative solutions being proposed for Canada's "Access to Justice" problem. Canadians are saying that everyone, all citizens should have equal access to justice. Must we in Maine settle for less?
Our strong suggestion is that a much broader problem solving process is needed asap. We are talking about one of the pillars of any democracy, its system of justice. The 74% statistic is a clarion call for more than just “repair” from a professionally composed, well-intentioned committee!
We need a major commission sponsored by all three branches of Maine’s government! And we need it asap!
Jerome A Collins, MD
Kennebunkport, Maine 04046
For further information on the Family Court and divorce industry crisis please email at MeGALalert@gmail.com or find us on Facebook. In addition the report by Canada "Access to Civil & Family Justice - A Roadmap for Change" may be found here.