Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011


For over two centuries America has failed to fulfill its revolutionary ideals of bringing equal justice to all. In August 2010 the American Bar Association moved to bring the nation closer to its ideals when it proposed the ABA Model Access Act. The Act would do what the Supreme Court of the United States has refused to do: it would recognize that legal aid in civil litigation is a matter of right and not of charity. The Act is a framework law and leaves many details to be filled in by enacting bodies and by the institutions eventually charged with implementing it. The drafters of the Model Act were aware of foreign legal aid systems. In some European countries, such as in Germany and in France, legal aid in civil litigation has been a civil right for over a century and a half. This article examines the Model Act in light of that century and a half of experience in Germany. Based on that experience it points to many issues that the Model Act leaves open and identifies how German law resolves them.



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