AN INTERIM REPORT BY THE FLORIDA COMMISSION ON ACCESS TO CIVIL JUSTICE (FCAC) CONTAINS SOME STAGGERING STATISTICS.
The FCAC was established in November 24, 2014 in an administrative order by Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga to study the remaining unmet civil needs of disadvantaged, low income and moderate income Floridians.
In establishing FCAC, Chief Justice Labarga wrote that: “The American and Florida Judicial Systems and founded upon the fundamental principle that justice should be accessible to all persons, the advancement of which is of profound interest to the Supreme Court of Florida.”
In it’s interim report, the statistics are staggering.
Nationally, according to the Justice Index, a project of the National Center for Access to Justice at the Cardozo School of Law, “more that 80% of the litigants appear without lawyers in matters such as evictions, mortgage foreclosures, child custody, child support proceedings and debt collection cases.”
In Florida, according to FCAC’s Interim Report, one million of Florida’s children live in poverty.
More than 18% of Floridians are 65 and older, and 350,000 elder Floridians will suffer emotional or physical treatment or some sort of neglect.
Many veterans who served in combat zones are now confronting civil legal problems as they adjust to life back home.
Once again, according to the Interim Report, “it is estimated that 2.5 million Florida women will experience domestic violence; and Florida’s economy, demographics, large number of immigrants, industrial sectors, and other factors make our State attractive to human trafficking.
Currently, Florida’s legal services attorneys can serve, at most, 20% of the needs of indigent civil litigants.
This does not even take into account the many working class Floridians who earn too much to qualify for legal aid, but not enough to afford to hire an attorney.
“THIS IS THE FLORIDA JUSTICE GAP.”
“Florida needs a coordinated effort involving all of the entities with the potential to make permanent, systemic advances to ensure that access to justice in Florida is not limited to those who can afford it. I am particularly concerned about the circumstances facing low-income litigants for whom purchasing legal representation can pose an impossible challenge, but access to civil justice is also a problem for the middle class, many of whom do not qualify for legal aid and cannot afford to hire a lawyer.” Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, Florida Supreme Court
We will continue to write about this important subject.