Essays in Access to Civil Justice
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CitationGreene, Sara Jane Sternberg. 2014. Essays in Access to Civil Justice. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractIn this three-article dissertation, I explore access to civil justice issues from several dimensions. Existing data tells us that poor households are significantly less likely than moderate- and high-income households to attempt to resolve civil justice problems, and that black households are significantly less likely than white households to attempt to resolve civil justice problems through formal means. However, we do not know why. The first article finds that among poor respondents, past experiences with public institutions, both legal and non-legal, contributed to a personal narrative about, and strong desire for, self-sufficiency. This narrative made respondents hesitant to seek help for civil justice matters, even if seeking help appeared to be the financially rational behavior. The second article argues that though there are many similarities between how poor blacks and poor whites interact with the legal system, blacks are much more likely to distrust legal institutions. This distrust leads them to avoid seeking out legal assistance, even in the most dire of circumstances. In the third article, I examine a different access to justice issue. I consider the changes Congress made in 2005 to try to limit access to one of bankruptcy's main protections, the automatic stay, for people who file for bankruptcy more than once in a 365-day period. I find that judges have mostly ignored this law, and that it has made little difference in access to bankruptcy for repeat filer debtors. I explore the roots of the judges' behavior and suggest potential legal reforms.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:12274499
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