On day 2 of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Senate confirmation hearings, Judge Gorsuch did something important—he laid out the cost of delay in the judicial system on a national stage.
The costs are high. Delay puts justice out of reach for many Americans that can’t afford to sustain themselves during extended litigation.
Judge Gorsuch brought attention to this fact during Sen. Mike Crapo’s (R-Iowa) line of questioning (see 9:48:50). He talked about Americans’ Seventh Amendment right to trial and the access to justice issues that plague the system, lamenting that it can be difficult litigants to get a jury trial because so much time is spent in discovery. “Lawyers become poets of nastygrams…I’m not sure that’s a good thing” said Gorsuch.
“When it gets so expensive and takes so long to get to a jury, to get to a trial… defendants sometimes you feel like you have to settle, not because the case has merit, but the cost and the delay to the client are so significant in getting to a decision, that you can’t afford to do it. You’ve got to get on” he said, adding that it’s a major issue needs to be addressed.
Our legal system operates on a timetable that isn’t friendly to everyday citizens, which undermines equity. Delay weakens the justice system.
Fifteen years ago, consumer legal funding emerged as a solution. In most jurisdictions, regular people can use consumer legal funding to pay for daily household needs as their valid legal claim makes its way through the system. Funding doesn’t go toward the cost of litigation—retaining an attorney, court costs and fees, etc.—only for personal expenses, ensuring that funding increases equity while avoiding additional burden on the system. It gives people a chance to seek a fair resolution.
Professor Jeremy Kidd wrote in a recent Law 360 article that “when legitimate claims are brought and justice served, it can actually benefit the economy by deterring bad and inefficient behavior.”
Judge Gorsuch shined a bright light on the issue, showing the negative effect delay can have on meritorious claims, to the detriment of our democracy. Ensuring equity in the system is of significant importance.