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THE LAST WORD by Grant Woods
Taking Another Look
they need to mount an adequate defense.
You can’t stack the deck for the government
and give them a disproportionate amount
of the chips, and then expect to have a fair
game. We need to continue to study what
goes on in family court to make sure we
meet the needs of modern families. Most
people have their
only experience with
the system in the city
and justice courts.
With such volume
to contend with, are
those courts treating people fairly and
I guess what I’m
saying is that our
civil and criminal
justice systems don’t
really seem to work
too well as we prepare to enter 2016.
It will be difficult
for the lawyers who
are invested in the
current system to be
the agents of change.
But if we don’t tackle these serious flaws,
the problems will either continue to be
ignored or they will
be addressed by people totally ignorant
of the history, practicality, or obligations of any competent legal
Arizona has been a leader many times
over the years when it comes to the administration of justice. Life is much different
today than it was 20 years ago. Too many
people no longer feel they can get justice
from our justice system. We can’t shrug and
say that this doesn’t matter. It does matter.
It’s time for us to lead again.
As we prepare for a new year right around the corner, there are a whole lot of issues concerning the justice system that
we should be debating. It is foolish to think that as our whole society
has been transformed by technology and a changed economy, the law,
unique among all areas of society, is capable of functioning well while
staying the same.
Everything in our American society has changed in the last several
decades, but the legal system stumbles
along as usual. We need to think about
how we change along with everything
The civil justice system has priced itself out of access for most people in this
country. Unless you are a major corporation or a millionaire or your claim is
covered by insurance, you cannot afford
to hire a lawyer. Even the simplest, most
basic lawsuit is expensive and beyond the
reach of most. That’s not right.
The contingency fee remains one
avenue for the middle class and poor
to access the courtroom, but even that
is constantly under attack. Arbitration
clauses slipped into lengthy contracts
that are never negotiated used to be
dubbed adhesion and thrown out. Today
they provide yet another safe harbor for
those who are both powerful
The President rightly has
begun the discussion on criminal justice sentencing reform.
Too many people of color are
behind bars, and many are
there for sentences that no
longer make sense. Mandatory sentencing was well intentioned, but it expanded beyond
common sense once the politicians got hold of it. We need
a complete review of the sentencing schemes—federally and
in Arizona. We don’t do much in prisons to rehabilitate or
educate prisoners, despite the fact that most will return to the
streets. We still deal inadequately with those whose main problem is addiction.
In Arizona, we need to examine a criminal justice system
where the poor (defined as just about everyone without a lot
of spare money lying around) don’t have near the resources
Grant Woods is a trial lawyer in
Phoenix emphasizing complex litigation,
plaintiff’s personal injury, and
government relations. He was Arizona
Attorney General from 1991 to 1999.
For more by the author, go to
basic lawsuit is
reach of most.
That’s not right.