ABSTRACT What is the source of Governments’ commitments in the administration of justice? Why, and when, should Governments pay for private lawyers? Should actual users of legal services be asked to pay for (at least some of) these costs? How should we identify the relevant costs anyways? Does the protection of equality matter for how we answer these questions? If so, which conception of equality is best suited for understanding its claims in the administration of justice? Which kinds of limits should Governments be authorized to impose on the use of legal services, in order to protect their equal availability? These are (some of) the central normative questions in the field of access to justice. Their respective answers directly affect the way we should think about many pressing and urgent political questions. This essay argues that the comparative best way to think about these questions is to begin by identifying our moral, pre-political interest, which we all share as humans, in protecting the abilities (or behavioral functions) involved in access to justice. Given the kind of beings that we are (responsive to reasons of various kinds, sociable, and having needy and temporal bodies), we are morally interested in our ability to disagree with others in certain qualified ways. This moral interest is what triggers the recognition of a (moral) duty to, at times, and provisionally, pause, cool down, and listen. We ought to demand that Governments pay for the administration of justice, and even pay (at times at least) for private lawyers, because we recognize as morally binding, for ourselves and for others, the reasonable authority of the duty on our activities and interests. This essay further proposes three political principles, which should help one to think well about public intervention the field. We should model public institutions in access to justice as a means to protect people from hierarchical social relations, as a means to protect the epistemic capacities of public institutions, and as a means to express a democratic culture in dispute resolution.




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