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To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
In this country the citizen is denied private redress of wrongs and guaranteed the security of his fundamental rights. It is therefore a serious thing for the rank and file to believe, as they do believe today--that litigation is impossible for the poor man, and that wrongs go unredressed. It is a sinister fact, too, when we boast of the ingenuity of our lawyers.
We have cause to be proud of American law and judicial institutions. But the importance and scope of its work must not blind us to the fact that the administration of justice is not impartial, and that the rich and the poor do not stand on an equality before the law. It is useless to deny the suggestion that there is no law for the poor. To be sure, it may be found in law books. But in the light of the experience of a multitude of humble, honest people, this indictment appears to be the simple truth.
There has been no deliberate intention to foreclose the rights of the poor. Corruption, itself, has played a negligible part. The causes of this denial of justice are delays, court costs, and fees. The procedural laws which have been passed by the legislatures in good faith have resulted in rearing obstacles in the path of those who most need protection. Laws requiring security for costs have closed the courts to all who cannot furnish a bond of $15 or more. It has been estimated that a third our population is unable to pay an appreciable sum for attorney's fees. In Boston the Legal Aid Society found that during the 17 months ended August 31, 1917, the fees required by the State caused a total failure of justice in 23 percent of the persons who needed the aid of the courts.
There is no good reason why a man should not be permitted to go into court with his trouble and have it settled by the common intelligence of a judge unhampered by a variety of statutory rules. Instead the procedure in our courts is regulated as though justice was a subtle quality attained only through the practice of a refined, legal mind. As long as our administration of justice is based upon the assumption that all legal procedure is necessarily wrapped in the complexity of a railroad indenture, only those who can pay for such specialized service will be able to use the courts.
Happily the sins of our law are venial. Time is required for it to adapt itself to the new conditions of the 20th century. In regard to corporations, it has made rapid strides. But in regard to the poor man, justice is sluggish. The state needs trained, ingenious lawyers; but when it gets them with the sacrifice of lawyers with human understanding and a layman's common sense, there is no gain. Perhaps no better expenditure could be made by the state than to attract with large salaries the right kind of legally trained men to sit as judges in Small Claims Courts or Domestic Relations Courts. D. F. McCLURE '20.
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