Court funding cuts are affecting everyone from the most disadvantaged to ordinary citizens to the business sector, a diverse set of legal and civic leaders warned at a National Law Day press conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“Our courts are the guarantors of civil justice, social order, and public safety, and we must do everything we can to enable their critical work,” declared a proclamation issued by President Obama and read aloud at the press conference.
Justice at Stake Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement, “It is impossible to deliver justice when the courthouse doors are closed. That’s why Justice at Stake is working to help legal groups and civic leaders make the case for adequate court funding.” Statements of other groups, including JAS partner organizations, are available here.
Leading participants at the press conference included Lisa Rickard, executive vice president, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform; Elaine R. Jones, president and director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; and Theodore Olson, former U.S. solicitor general and co-chair of an ABA Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System.
Because “businesses rely on an independent, impartial court system to resolve disputes in a fair and expeditious manner,” Rickard said, “the rule of law is vital to economic prosperity.”
Uncertainty surrounding a pending lawsuit can have a “devastating” effect on a small business, she said, including delays in hiring new workers or launching a new product and also reputational harm. Stock prices can be affected too.
“So when underfunding prevents courts from functioning in an efficient manner, American businesses, and their millions of employees, consumers and shareholders, are the losers,” Rickard warned.
Jones noted that “courts are the great leveler” in our society, according to an abanow.org article about the event, and she said they provide a systematic, orderly way for settling issues for those who seek justice.
“We are in a crisis today. Funding has been cut all over the country beyond the bone, to the marrow,” Olson cautioned. “We are actually closing our courts … We are shutting down justice. We are depriving our citizens and our economy of the one fundamental necessity for a free and prosperous country.” When court funding cuts are as severe, the poorest and most disadvantaged are the ones who are most greatly affected, he said.
In the Des Moines Register, meanwhile, Polk County Bar Association President Stephen R. Eckley wrote a commentary entitled “Iowa View: No courts, no justice no freedom.” Similarly Daniel J. Healy, a judge in the Solano County (Calif.) courts, wrote for the Vallejo Times-Herald a commentary headlined “Law Day: Try to imagine no courts, no justice, no freedom.”