by Tom Gordon
The MacArthur Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2018 MacArthur Fellowships, popularly know as “Genius Grants.” Among them is Rebecca Sandefur, a professor at the University of Illinois and a Faculty Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. She’s also a member of our Policy Advisory Board.
Professor Sandefur’s work has focused on both quantitative and qualitative research of the civil justice system, providing great insight into the nature and extent of the shortfalls in providing access to justice that Responsive Law is attempting to remedy. The MacArthur committee notes that her work shows that “in most cases, the advantage of a lawyer relative to a lay person resides in an ability to navigate procedures and rules rather than in deep knowledge of the law. Her observations have led to the hypothesis that the gap in access to civil justice might be closable without lawyers.”
The MacArthur committee concludes its citation of Professor Sandefur by pointing out that she “is providing the empirical evidence necessary to guide and implement wide-scale reforms to address the civil legal needs of low-income people.” It’s actually not just low-income people, but people from across the economic spectrum that would benefit from reforms based on her work. Congratulations to Professor Sandefur on a well-deserved honor! I’m looking forward to more of her insightful work in the years to come.