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The Honorable Wallace B. Jefferson

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Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Legal System Falls Short in Protecting Basic Rights

The Honorable Wallace B. Jefferson

The legal community has long recognized that indigent citizens often lack access to the judicial system. Pro bono programs and legal aid organizations have attempted to address this issue. In the Nineteenth Annual Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Lecture on State Courts and Social Justice, Wallace B. Jefferson, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, argues that there are barriers to justice not only for the indigent but also for middle-class Americans. He explores how our most valuable rights are often the least protected. Tenants subject to eviction rarely have counsel, veterans wait years to receive earned benefits, and juveniles cannot invoke the Sixth Amendment to challenge civil fines. Chief Justice Jefferson explores reforms and alternatives that are available when traditional paths to justice are blocked, and he highlights some of the obstacles faced in creating these alternatives.