Whither Justice: The Common Problematic of Five Models of 'Access to Justice'

Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 19:297-316 (2001)
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This article surveys five approaches to justice in contemporary Anglo-American legal thought: pure proceduralism, the sources thesis, the semiotic model, the social convention model, and the ‘law and...’ model. Each approach has associated justice with the foundation of the legal structure of rules, principles and the like. The foundation for pure proceduralism has rested in the conditions (such as majority will, freedom of expression, and political equality), external to the pure process. For the sources thesis, the foundation has been the state institutions, such as courts and legislatures and ultimately to the state external to the legal structure. With the semiotic model, the structure of signifying concepts (rules, principles, doctrines and other intelligible objects) takes the foundation as a non-signified concept (such as Hans Kelsen’s Grundnorm) external to the signifying relations inside the structure. For the social convention model, the key has been the observation by a jurist of the regularity of a multiplicity of experienced events and the regularity, in turn, is a concept which abstracts from and unifies the multiplicity into a concept. The final approach, the law and…approach, has assumed that the foundation lies in the external and independent disciplinary discourse, thereby reinforcing the observed legal structure as given. The foundation, in each context, has been considered external to the units and analytical reasoning of the legal structure. The foundation, that is, has been considered neither legal nor illegal. The consequence has been that jurists, working within the structure founded by an externality, cannot access justice. The clue to justice, I suggest, is concealed inside the structure itself: namely in the multiplicity of experienced events which the concepts and signifying relations have enclosed and forgotten. The Paper briefly fleshes out the latter sense of access to justice.

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William Conklin
University of Windsor


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