Rebecca Sandefur: Fixing the Justice Gap

Professor Rebecca Sandefur joins Rule of Law Talk to discuss access to civil justice: what that term means, what the research says about it, and how it can be improved.

In the past few years, studies highlighting the "justice gap" — the difference between people’s civil legal needs and the resources available to meet those needs — have received increased attention in the United States. At the international level, the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals have magnified the debate around the need to address the "justice gap" worldwide — with Goal 16 challenging governments to "provide access to justice for all."

Data in both the United States and across the globe underscore the tremendous need for progress. Over the past few years, WJP’s Rule of Law Index has identified Civil Justice as an area with significant room for improvement in the U.S., and internationally WJP’s Global Insights on Access to Justice found that more than half of people surveyed in 45 countries had experienced a legal problem in the past two years, but that most people did not turn to courts and lawyers for assistance.

Rebecca Sandefur is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and also a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation, where she founded and leads the Foundation’s access to justice research initiative. In 2013, she was The Hague Visiting Chair in the Rule of Law, affiliated with the Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law, and in 2015, she was named "Champion of Justice" by the National Center for Access to Justice. Recently her name has been in the news, as she was named a 2018 recipient of one of the MacArthur Foundation’s "Genius Grants."