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Year 2015 x
Article

Access_open A View from the Sky

A General Overview about Civil Litigation in the United States with Reference to the Relief in Small and Simple Matters

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 4 2015
Keywords civil procedure, United States, small and simple matters
Authors Manuel Gomez and Juan Carlos Gomez
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article, which is based on the research conducted for the General Report ‘Relief in Small and Simple Matters in an Age of Austerity’ presented at the XV World Congress of Procedural Law, provides a contextualised and broad overview of these phenomena in the United States. After describing the general features of the federal and state judiciaries, including its adversarial model of judging, and the importance of the jury system, the article turns its attention to discuss the factors that affect the cost of litigation in the United States, the different models of litigation funding, the available legal aid mechanisms, and the procedural tools available for handling small and simple disputes. Furthermore, this article briefly revisits the discussion about the effect of austerity on the functioning of the United States legal system on the handling of small and simple matters and ends with a brief conclusion that summarises its contribution and sketches the points for future research on this important topic.


Manuel Gomez
Manuel Gomez is Associate Professor of Law and Associate Dean of International and Graduate Students at the Florida International University College of Law.

Juan Carlos Gomez
Juan Carlos Gomez is Director of the Carlos A. Costa Immigration and Human Rights Clinic at the Florida International University College of Law.

    This article sets out to contribute to the special issue devoted to multi-disciplinary legal research by discussing first the limits of purely doctrinal legal research in relation to a particular topic and second the relevant considerations in devising research that (inter alia) draws on non-legal, auxiliary disciplines to ‘fill in’ and guide the legal framework. The topic concerned is the (analysis of the) fundamental rights of minorities.
    The article starts with a long account of the flaws in the current legal analysis of the European Court of Human Rights regarding minorities’ rights, particularly the reduction in its analysis and the related failure to properly identify and weigh all relevant interests and variables. This ‘prelude’ provides crucial insights in the causes of the flaws in the Court’s jurisprudence: lack of knowledge (about the relevant interests and variables) and concerns with the Court’s political legitimacy.
    The article goes on to argue for the need for multi-disciplinary legal research to tackle the lack of knowledge: more particularly by drawing on sociology (and related social sciences) and political philosophy as auxiliary disciplines to identify additional interests and variables for the rights analysis. The ensuing new analytical framework for the analysis of minorities’ rights would benefit international courts (adjudicating on human rights) generally. To operationalise and refine the new analytical framework, the research should furthermore have regard to the practice of (a selection of) international courts and national case studies.


Kristin Henrard
Professor of minorities and fundamental rights at the Erasmus School of Law.
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