Matthew Fritz-Mauer, ‘Naming, Blaming, and Just Plain Giving Up’

Millions of Americans experience civil justice problems each year, but most never assert their rights in the justice system. This ‘access to justice’ crisis has long received attention from the legal profession, commentators, and bar associations. This analysis largely emphasizes unmet legal needs, and pushes to expand the availability of legal assistance. This narrow approach does not meaningfully examine understandings of ‘access’ and ‘justice’, interrogate the problem within particular socio-legal contexts, or consider more radical policy solutions.

This Article does. It analyzes access to justice issues among low-wage workers suffering wage theft in Washington, DC, in the wake of that city enacting one of the strongest workers’ rights regimes in the country. Through original qualitative and quantitative data, this Article evaluates whether these legal changes have improved access to justice for the working poor. While there has been some success on the margins, there has not been a meaningful shift, because the government is largely inactive and low-income people face many non-legal barriers to bringing claims. Using Denver, Colorado as a case study, this Article concludes that rights enforcers must fundamentally change their approach to tangibly improve access to justice.

Fritz-Mauer, Matthew, Naming, Blaming, and Just Plain Giving Up (February 8, 2022).

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