Justice Initiatives: Legal Aid Reform and Access to Justice

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February 2004

The February 2004 issue of Justice Initiatives, the Open Society Justice Initiative's newsletter, looks at legal aid reform from several different perspectives around the world. A major focus is state-provided legal representation for indigent persons charged with crimes.

Below is a list of articles included in the newsletter, which is available in PDF format. For more information about OSI's Open Society Justice Initiative, visit

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative


  • Lithuania: An Opportunity for Real Reform
    Starting in 1999, Zaza Namoradze has been closely involved in an effort to establish a groundbreaking system for legal aid delivery in Lithuania, working together with the government, NGOs, and legal professionals.
  • Making Way for Justice: Breaking with Tradition in the Former Soviet Bloc
    Valerie Wattenberg describes the inefficient and much-abused panel appointment or "ex officio" system for providing legal services to indigent defendants that still prevails throughout the former Soviet states.
  • A New Model of State Legal Aid in Lithuania
    Lithuania is poised to embrace a new system of legal aid delivery. Linas Sesickas describes some of the history and main elements of reform.

Bulgaria and Central and Eastern Europe

  • Needs Unmet: Legal Aid in Bulgaria
    Access to justice was deficient under communism, as was the justice system as a whole. Legal aid provision in Bulgaria was among the worst in the region then, and remains so today many years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, writes Krassimir Kanev.
  • Bulgaria: Seeking Equality and Transparency in Criminal Defense
    Legal aid in Bulgaria is irregular and substandard, resulting in higher sentences and ethnically skewed prison populations. A pilot project demonstrates a possible alternative, writes Robert E. Kinney.
  • Working Together to Deliver Access to Justice: South Africa and Central and Eastern Europe
    Experimental models for legal aid delivery being tested in Eastern Europe today are inspired by a system first developed in South Africa. David McQuoid-Mason, a central figure in this trans-continental transfer, recounts his personal experience.


  • Growth of the Access to Justice Movement in Latin America: The Chilean Example
    More and more Latin American countries have introduced public defender systems recently, but Chile has gone further than most, Richard J. Wilson argues, in mapping the issue and finding institutional solutions.
  • Access to Justice for Victims and Defendants in Chile
    Joe Hirsch explored Chile's criminal justice system before and after a recent and ongoing overhaul of crime victims' services and found the gains in increased access to justice are tempered by the continuing hardship in which both victims and defendants often live.

East Timor

  • A New Office for a New State: East Timor's Public Defenders
    Cancio Xavier describes the political context in which East Timor's pioneering public defender office was born and the challenges facing it today.

England and Wales

  • Quality and Criminal Legal Aid in England and Wales
    Due to the high costs of legal aid in England and Wales, the government and the legal profession have separately taken steps to assure quality. Roger Smith describes the main features.
  • The Public Needs Defending, but Who Provides the Service?
    Richard Whitehead, head of the Public Defender Service Office in Liverpool, provides an overview of the merits of the Public Defender pilot project in England and Wales.


  • Building a Rights-based Framework for Legal Aid in Israel
    Moshe Hacohen explains how Israel's legal aid framework has shifted from a matter of good fortune and official discretion to systematic delivery of a basic right.

Sierra Leone

  • Accessing Justice in Rural Sierra Leone: A Civil Society Response
    Sierra Leone's formal justice system is undermined by low-level access to legal services, particularly outside the urban centers. Paul James-Allen describes a new project to improve access to justice in the provinces.


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