SLAW Book Review: The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law

Several times each month, we are pleased to republish a recent book review from the Canadian Law Library Review (CLLR). CLLR is the official journal of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD), and its reviews cover both practice-oriented and academic publications related to the law.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law. Edited by Trevor CW Farrow and Lesley A Jacobs. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2020. 345 p. Includes index. ISBN 9780774863575 (hardcover) $89.95. ISBN 9780774863582 (paperback) $39.95. ISBN 9780774863599 (PDF) $39.95. ISBN 9780774863605 (EPUB) $39.95.

Reviewed by Krisandra Ivings
Reference Librarian
Supreme Court of Canada
In CLLR 46:4

What is the current state of civil and family law access to justice in Canada? The authors and editors of The Justice Crisis come together to describe a complex system in need of reform. This compilation of essays is the culminating project of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s SSHRC Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) Cost of Justice Project, which aimed to produce research needed for evidence-based decision-making for civil justice reform in Canada and internationally. The project asked, first, what does it cost to deliver an effective civil justice system? and second, what are the social and economic costs of failing to do so? This volume targets these questions.

The book begins with a foreword written by former Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell, situating the book within the current state of civil justice in Canada. Justice Cromwell defines civil justice as “a practical and fair outcome for civil legal problems,” (p xi) one that encompasses not just adjudication but a range of practices leading up to that point. In the book’s Introduction, editors Farrow and Jacobs, in a similar way, broadly define access to civil and family justice as “having paths available for citizens to prevent, address, and resolve the legal challenges and problems they face in their everyday lives” (p 3).

This system of justice, however, is described as in crisis. According to Justice Cromwell, the system needs timely, coherent reform and innovation in line with contemporary legal needs and alongside public engagement. Farrow and Jacobs describe a need for evidence-based reform initiatives in the civil justice system in broad areas including housing, gender violence, justice for Indigenous communities, and more.

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