Hastings Law Journal


David Medine


Indigent litigants face enormous financial burdens in pursuing civil litigation. These burdens may be divided into two categories: access fees, including costs such as filing fees, and equipage costs, including attorney and expert witness fees. While litigation barriers for indigents have been lowered, courts generally have considered barriers to access rather than barriers to equipage. Yet access to a court may be of little practical significance without sufficient provision for equipage. Indeed, as this Article explains, an indigent's ability to obtain expert assistance can be a decisive factor in civil litigation.

Employing the equal protection clause and the due process clause as doctrinal sources for a right to expert assistance in civil litigation, the Article examines strategies courts can employ to provide such assistance. Part II of the Article demonstrates the importance of expert assistance to the indigent civil litigant. Part III considers ways indigent litigants can obtain expert assistance under present civil procedure and court rules. This Part concludes that existing approaches are inadequate to provide expert assistance. Parts IV and V argue that civil litigants have a constitutional right to receive expert assistance, or to provision of funds to obtain such assistance. Part V also addresses practical questions that might arise in implementing a system of provision of expert assistance to indigent civil litigants.

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