This Article builds on theories of the fragmented state and of human and institutional vulnerability to create a new, structural theory of “functional fragmentation” and its role in access to justice work. Expanding on previous concepts of fragmentation in access to justice scholarship, fragmentation is understood in the Article as a complex phenomenon existing within as well as between state institutions like courts. Further, it is examined in terms of its relationship to the state’s coercive power over poor people in legal systems. In this view, fragmentation in state operations creates not only challenges for access, but also opportunities for resistance, resilience, and justice. Focusing on problem-solving courts, and family courts in particular, the Article examines the intersection of human and institutional vulnerability within legal institutions and provides a framework for identifying ways to create greater access to justice. The Article contributes to state theory and the feminist theory of vulnerability, while providing a new way to understand and address an increasingly coercive state and its punitive effects on low-income people.
Elizabeth L. MacDowell,
Vulnerability, Access to Justice, and the Fragmented State,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol23/iss1/3