Punishing the Average? Access to Civil Justice for California's Self-Represented Litigants

Kara Anderson : Sociology, Demography Minor

Mentor: Heather Haveman, Sociology

While extensive research explores inequalities in the criminal justice system, little sociological literature analyzes inequalities in the civil justice system. Whereas a constitutional right to counsel exists for criminal cases, litigants in civil cases must either pay enormous attorney fees or represent themselves in navigating complex issues such as divorce, restraining orders, evictions, and more. The difference between the supply and demand for civil legal assistance is known as the justice gap. Kara's research examines how Superior Court Self-Help Centers, one of California's most extensive strategies for narrowing the justice gap, impact access to justice considering litigants' individual and contextual inequalities. Her research uses quantitative methods comparing Californians' civil legal needs to available resources, statistically analyzing who is best served by state-sponsored resources and who is left in the gap.