“There is nothing more important to the stability and welfare of our country than our justice system. Critical to the proper functioning of the judicial system is the public’s confidence in and respect for it. We have the chance to see that the needy are provided with the legal services they need, a goal that I strongly believe is critical to the maintenance of the public’s confidence in and respect for our justice system.”
– Honorable John A. Sutro, Jr., Retired, Legal Services Trust Fund Commission Member

About the Campaign

Voices for Equal Access to Justice

Sometimes it can be hard to communicate to others just how important access to justice is to someone facing an intimidating legal issue without the slightest idea of how to defend themselves against someone with more resources and expertise in a court of law. Luckily, there have been many influential and intelligent people before us that have been passionate about the struggle of the poor in the pursuit of justice. Next time you find yourself tongue-tied when describing the importance of access to justice, borrow from the words of those eloquent writers from across the political spectrum who have previously found those exact words needed to move hearts and minds.

Justice & Fairness

Image of a judge's gavel
  • "The first duty of society is justice." -Alexander Hamilton
  • "Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced,...neither persons nor property will be safe." -Frederick Douglass
  • "Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both." -Frederick Douglass
  • "Our Constitution is color-blind...In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful." -John Marshall Harlan
  • "Without equal access to the law, the system not only robs the poor of their only protection, but it places it in the hands of their oppressors the most powerful and ruthless weapon ever created" -Reginald Heber Smith
  • "To withhold the equal protection of the laws, is to undermine the entire structure and threaten it with collapse...To deny law or justice to any person is, in actual effect, to outlaw them by stripping them of their only protection. It is for such reasons that freedom and equality of justice are essential to a democracy and that denial of justice is the short cut to anarchy." -Reginald Heber Smith
  • "No organization of lawyers can long survive which has not for its primary object the protection of the public. Laws are not made for the benefit of the few. They should be those rules of conduct prescribed by the people themselves, through their properly constituted representatives, for the equal protection of the rights of society in the aggregate. They should apply with equal force to the rich and poor alike, and to the protection of those rights the legal profession must apply itself with integrity, industry and faith." -Roberts P. Hudson
  • "Equality before the law in a true democracy is a matter of right. It cannot be a matter of charity, or of favor, or of grace, or of discretion." -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge
  • "It is the daily; it is the small; it is the cumulative injuries of little people that we are here to protect...If we are able to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Ration Justice." -Judge Learned Hand
  • "Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity." -Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • "From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him." -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black
  • "There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has." -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black
  • "Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status." -U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr.
  • "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." -Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • "But more than anything else, we have learned that legal assistance for the poor, when properly provided, is one of the most constructive ways to help them help themselves." -President Richard Nixon
  • "Ninety percent of our lawyers serve ten percent of our people. We are over-lawyered and under-represented." -President Jimmy Cater
  • "Equal justice is a dream. We must make it a reality." -John W. Cummiskey
  • "The movement continues towards the goal of 'equal justice' and its pathway -- unfettered access." -Alexander D. Forger
  • "Access and fairness in the courts are not abstract philosophical principles - they are basic to preserving the rule of law." -California Chief Justice Ronald George
  • "The failure to invest in civil justice is directly related to the increase in criminal disorder. The more people feel there is injustice, the more it becomes part of their psyche." -Wilhelm Joseph
  • "In a society that stresses individual achievement - where you pull yourself up by your bootstraps - the Legal Aid Bureau helps those without boots. By providing access to justice to tens of thousands of Marylanders each year, Legal Aid attorneys and support staff bring equity and stability to society." -Wilhelm Joseph
  • "The law should be a shield for the weak and powerless, not a club for the powerful." -Governor Roy Barnes
  • "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice." -Nelson Mandela
  • The United States ranks 21st worldwide in access to civil justice. -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • If one million lawyers in the country did 40 hours a year of pro bono work, 40 million hours of legal service would become available, enough to provide access to all those without wealth to currently have full access to the legal system. -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • About 80 percent of legal needs experienced by low-income people are unmet. -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • "How can it be, in a country as strong and rich as this one, that tens of thousands of Americans who need legal representation are turned away every year because their government won't support the very program designed to help them?" -Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)
  • "We in the United States are very fortunate to have laws that prohibit [harassment, abuse, and discrimination] and that provide meaningful remedies. Yet, those meaningful laws are meaningless if victims can't access them, are deterred from pursuing their rights, or simply have no lawyers to represent them." - William R. Tamayo

Generosity & Compassion

  • "This is our special duty, that if anyone specially needs our help, we should give him such help to the utmost of our power." -Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • "Treat people as if they were what they should be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." -Vincent Van Gogh
  • "No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave." -Calvin Coolidge
  • "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi
  • "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." -Sir Winston Churchill
  • "Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him." -Albert Schweitzer
  • "I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do." -Helen Keller
  • "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope." -Robert F. Kennedy
  • "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead
  • "Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand." -Emily Kimbrough
  • "Is there a more important undertaking than to defend the defenseless and to be a voice for the voiceless?" -Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis
  • "Service is the rent we pay for living. It is not something to do in your spare time; it is the very purpose of life." -Marion Wright Edelman
  • "One vote, one act, or one person can change the course of history. I also thought of the lawyers who daily and tirelessly labor in the vineyards of justice - men and women who represent their clients with integrity, ethics and professionalism, and who think nothing of it as that is what lawyers do. Yet, often these individuals are the very people who change the world." -Martha W. Barnett


Image of young girl and an elderly woman
  • "Poverty is a veil that obscures the face of greatness." -Kahlil Gibran
  • "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings." -Nelson Mandela
  • "The only thing less popular than a poor person these days is a poor person with a lawyer." -Jonathan Asher
  • "In the richest nation ever there have always been people who've been abused, who live in poverty, who live in fear of violence, who lack housing, who want to vote but can't exercise the franchise, who want to enter the mainstream after they've been marginalized or incarcerated, who want a job, who want a job free of discrimination and harassment, who want to be respected for who they are and not stereotyped, and above all, who want to live with dignity and with the hope of opportunity." -William R. Tamayo
  • Poverty imposes enormous costs on society through the lost potential of children who grow up in families with very low incomes, through lower levels of education attainment, lower earnings in adulthood, and poorer health. -California Budget Project, 2011
  • Childhood poverty cost the nation around $500 billion per year in lost adult productivity and wages, increased crime, and higher health expenditures - equivalent to four percent of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). -California Budget Project, 2011
  • In 2012, the California poverty rate (15.9 percent) was about a third higher than the 12.2 percent poverty rate in 2006. -California Budget Project, 2013
  • In 2012, 6.02 million Californians (nearly 1 out of 6) had incomes below the federal poverty line ($23,283 for a family of four with two children) -California Budget Project, 2013
  • In 2012, 2.1 million children in California (22.5 percent) lived in poverty, up from 18.1 percent in 2006. -California Budget Project, 2013
  • While children make up 24 percent of the state's population, they account for 34.3 percent of Californians in poverty. -California Budget Project, 2013
  • California inflation-adjusted median household income ($57,020) was 9.5 percent below what it was in 2006. -California Budget Project, 2013
  • California's 2012 poverty rate was 0.9 percentage points higher than the national average. -California Budget Project, 2013
  • Nationwide between 2008 and 2010, unemployment-compensation cases rose 80 percent, food-stamp cases increased by about a third, and bankruptcy and debt-relief cases climbed by about a quarter. -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • Family cases made up more than a third of the cases closed by programs funded in 2010 by the Legal Services Corporation (housing - 25 percent, income maintenance - 12 percent, consumer - 12 percent). -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • An important requirement for encouraging pro bono work is adequate funding for the country's civil legal-aid programs (referral, support, and training). -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • After federal dollars, IOLTA is the second-biggest source of funds for civil legal services for indigent people nationwide. -CQ Researcher, 2011
  • Mantel, Barbara. "Legal-Aid Crisis." CQ Researcher, October 7, 2011, 829-852.
  • National Legal Aid & Defender Association: Collected Quotes Pertaining to Equal Access
  • "New Census Data Show That More Than 6 Million Californians - Over One-Third of Them Children - Lived in Poverty in 2012," California Budget Project, September 17, 2013, 1-5.
  • "New Data Show That More Than 6 Million Californians - Over One-Third of Them Children - Lived in Poverty in 2010," California Budget Project, September 13, 2011, 1-6.