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Famed Journal Lends Its Clout To Fighting Access Crisis

RJ Vogt

As one of America’s oldest and most renowned intellectual societies, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences has a mission to “address issues of importance to the nation.”

In the latest issue of the 239-year-old society’s quarterly journal Daedalus, out today, that mission tackles America’s access to justice crisis, in which most people with legal problems lack the means to solve them. Featuring two dozen articles from leading law professors, researchers and experts, the issue shines a spotlight on a topic that often gets lost in the din of a nonstop news cycle.

According to the issue’s co-editor, Lincoln Caplan, a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker and previous member of the New York Times editorial board, the project convinced him that access to justice is a “stunningly invisible issue given its importance in the country.”

“The Affordable Care Act, at its best, benefited about 20 million Americans who needed health care coverage and didn’t have it,” he told Law360. “And that was enormously important for the country ... [but] roughly 100 million Americans have justice issues.”

Caplan knows a thing or two about the national legal infrastructure, having penned six books on law and justice in America over the past 40 years. His contribution to the Daedalus issue makes the case that access to justice “needs champions in national politics, not just in the legal profession and among its allies.”

“My ambition is to help elevate the profile of this issue, to help gain the attention of leaders in politics and media and business and otherwise, to recognize that this is a sustained and shameful national crisis that deserves to be treated as a profound issue in American inequality,” he said.

The publication is part of a larger and ongoing effort of the American Academy to gather information about the need for improved legal access and study innovations to fill the need. Law360 spoke with several Daedalus contributors about the solutions they highlighted in their articles.

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View full story: Law360