Law360 (April 5, 2020, 8:02 PM EDT) --
Today's perspective comes from Rebecca Sandefur, a professor at Arizona State University and faculty fellow of the American Bar Foundation, where she founded the access to justice research initiative.
What challenges has the pandemic created in your specific area of work?
In access to justice generally, there is going to be a massive increase in ordinary people's need for assistance with civil justice problems. The dislocations related to COVID-19 will cause unemployment and all the cascading problems that emerge when people lose income (unemployment claims, unpaid bills, unpaid debts, rent and mortgage, stress on family relationships).
People will run into challenges understanding, accessing and using the various programs meant to help people in hard times — for example, loan deferments and the like. And the deaths that result from this public health crisis will themselves create justice problems — probate, inheritance, heir property, access to records, for example — for the survivors of this tragedy.
How are you and your family adapting at home?
We are fortunate in having internet, which allows us to remain connected to friends and family and colleagues. We are fortunate to be employed in jobs where we can continue working remotely. We are currently in central Illinois, which has not yet been hit hard by the coronavirus, but is under a stay at home order. The situation changes everyday; we try to stay flexible and open-minded.
What is the most creative or productive response to the crisis you've witnessed so far?
I have been encouraged that this crisis, rather than slowing key justice reforms down in the access to justice space, is being understood as a reason to push forward. For example, Utah is moving ahead with re-regulation that will open up space for the new kinds of legal services people will so desperately need for the next many months.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.
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