Access to Justice

Course number: LAW 3980

This seminar will engage students in an examination of the access to justice (A2J) crisis for low and middle-income Canadians. We will explore how individuals seek to manage their legal problems by engaging with and navigating the civil justice system in Manitoba. It is intended that guest lecturers and experts will assist the class in reviewing the nature of past and current obstacles to timely and fair A2J as well as reform initiatives undertaken by justice system stakeholders including the legal profession, the judiciary and government. Other topics which may be covered in the course include: public legal services; the proliferation of self-represented litigants; the role of pro bono services; rural and remote A2J; the costs of justice; the state of A2J research; the provision of legal services by non-lawyers; online dispute resolution; and, technology, innovation and the legal practice of the future.

Students will be expected to submit a final research paper (60% of the grade, comprising a minimum of 7500 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography) on one of the A2J issues covered in the course.  A list of approved topics will be prepared and distributed to students early in the term. It is expected that the paper will describe a specific access barrier, past and present efforts to reduce that barrier, and propose an innovative solution to enhance A2J in that area.

The course will also include an experiential learning component where small groups of students will be expected to select and visit a provider of access services and then provide a brief written report (5 pages for 15% of the grade) and oral presentation (15 to 20 minutes for 15% of the grade) to the class on the site visit experience. These providers may include: the Legal Help Centre; Small Claims Court; Legal Aid Manitoba; the Residential Tenancies Branch; and, the Community Unemployed Health Centre.

The course will be run as an advanced seminar class. Attendance at and participation in seminars through discussion of the issues raised in the assigned readings is required and will make up 10% of the grade.

INSTRUCTOR: Jeff Hirsch

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