Rebuilding Justice

Civil Courts in Jeopardy and Why You Should Care
September 27, 2011
Forward by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (Ret.)

Our country's courts are in danger. Our democratic society depends upon the existence of a qualified and independent Third Branch of government. A healthy, fully functioning judiciary provides the counterbalance to the political branches that is necessary to assure protection of our constitutional rights. But support for judicial independence has faltered, in large part because our education system is failing to impart an understanding of the role and importance of the courts. We must rebuild public support for maintaining and protecting the courts.

This book is an effort to contribute to that project. I applaud its contribution to the general level of knowledge about the courts—for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. And, I commend its observations about developing judicial selection systems that take cash out of the judicial selection process and that provide objective judicial evaluation tools to assure accountability.

We are blessed with many excellent judges and court staff around the country, in both the federal and state systems. But, they and all the rest of us have an obligation to work hard to improve the system so that it is both impartial and accountable and so that it provides just and efficient resolution of cases. It is a duty that falls to all citizens, not just to judges and lawyers. This book should be of interest to individuals committed specifically to the health of the courts, and more broadly to the health of our democratic system.

What People Are Saying About the Book

Philip K. Howard, best-selling author of The Death of Common Sense:

Civil justice in America has serious problems, as Rebecca Kourlis and Dirk Olin vividly describe in Rebuilding Justice. This important book exposes unseemly judicial elections, the use of discovery as a weapon for extortion and other distortions of justice. Kourlis and Olin also provide practical solutions that are certain to be influential in the inevitable battle to re-align civil justice with the needs of a free society.

Larry Kramer, Dean of Stanford Law School:

This is an important book. It describes a crisis in our civil justice system that is not just brewing, but already fully brewed. And while others have written about many of these problems before, no one has drawn them together in so readable a form or sounded this clear and urgent a clarion call. Not everyone will agree with all the proposed solutions, but all are worth close consideration, and taken together they provide much food for thought--and action.

Hugh Caperton, appellant in U.S. Supreme Court Case Caperton v. A. T. Massey Coal Co.:

Court reform is the crucial third leg of judicial reform to go along with judicial election and recusal reform. As someone who has personal experience in a protracted and ongoing legal battle, it has become apparent to me that real judicial reform cannot be attained without all three. Whether you have been in court or not; whether you are a business person or a private citizen, the issues presented in this book should be of front-burner importance to you.

Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor at Slate:

This book couldn't have come at a more opportune moment. The American civil justice system is broken -- jury service is in decline, the role of judge has become bitterly politicized, the length and expense of civil litigation has made it prohibitive, and courts could not be less user-friendly if they tried. Rebuilding Justice offers a clear-eyes diagnosis of the breakdown of civil courts and jury trials and a lofty reminder of why our constitution is alone in protecting access to them. This is a clarion call to repair the national treasure that is our civil courts system and a bracing lesson in what's at stake if we don't.

John Broderick, Jr., New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice:

This thought provoking book should be required reading for all Americans. Our justice system is admired around the world but, sadly, the state courts across this country are slowly failing. Change and resources are desperately needed. Unless we act and act soon meaningful, timely and affordable access to justice, the bedrock promise of the American constitutional experience, will cease to be real. We have no time to waste.