University of Denver

Making the Case for Real and Lasting Reform

Associate Director of Communications

Nearly 110 years ago, Roscoe Pound proclaimed: “Dissatisfaction with the administration of justice is as old as the law itself.” In 2015, that sentiment endures and is echoed in the mounting call for real, meaningful change in our civil justice system. Yet, over the last century, many efforts have been made to do just that: thought leaders have conferred, rules have changed, processes have improved. Through it all, though, the chorus remains the same, and the pressures felt on the system have only increased.

  • Excessive cost and delay are pervasive, exacerbated by an out-of-control discovery process, which keeps many parties from ever having their case heard.
  • Decreasing budgets and lags in technology keep courts from being responsive and efficient, further isolating self-represented litigants who can’t afford attorneys to navigate the system for them.

So, we find ourselves at a crossroads. In a recent article for the Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy, IAALS highlights where the road has taken us so far, and where the future is headed. Executive Director Rebecca Love Kourlis and Rule One Initiative Director Brittany K.T. Kauffman argue that while rules reform is an “essential component of addressing the issues,” history tells us it is not enough.

A change in culture is the critical next step, to amplify and solidify the impact that rule changes can make. And, this change in culture is necessary for both judges and attorneys. While new rules acknowledge the need for heightened judicial case management, it ultimately must come from the judges themselves, who alone have the ability to help tailor the process to the needs of each case. Meanwhile, lawyers have a responsibility to promote efficiency and cooperation in their interactions with opposing counsel and the court—which does not come at the expense of fairness or their clients.

In the end, real change must come from the inside. Rules alone have helped to bend the system from the outside toward our ideal, but bending is no longer enough. We must break it down and rebuild it into the functional and accessible civil justice system that we need, and a change in culture must be part of that equation.

Read more in Rule Reform, Case Management, and Culture Change: Making the Case for Real and Lasting Reform.