At the end of last week, a new social venture – CrowdJustice – that helps communities come together and fund legal cases when an important issue is at stake was launched. Here founder Julia Salasky sets out four reasons why crowdfunding public interest litigation is worth getting behind.
1. Something positive in the face of doom and gloom
When I emailed a high profile lawyer recently to thank him for his support of CrowdJustice, he replied: ‘I’m happy to support anything which is creative and forward-thinking. Had enough of doom and gloom!’
In a time when we’re seeing the slow erosion of our ability to access the courts, whether through legal aid cuts, changes to judicial review legislation, the disappearance of our constitutional watchdogs, the attempt to abolish the human rights act – it feels like doom and gloom is all around.
Crowdfunding provides a positive outlet for us as members of a community and as citizens to help normal people access the courts to go to bat for issues that we care about.
2. It’s a creative way to engage your community, and to be engaged
CrowdJustice allows communities to band together to access the courts to protect their communal assets – like their local hospital – or shared values, like human rights (see our first case). It’s a way for communities to channel the energy and finances of the community as a whole in a way that can create positive change.
If you’re a part of a community sometimes it’s hard to know what you can do to make an impact on different issues. The other day I met a couple who have been fighting a long legal battle to save some of their local trees – 100 year-old trees in their local park – from being cut down. They lost, and as the trees were being cut down, their neighbours said, oh, we had no idea that this was going to happen. If we’d have known, we could have helped.
Crowdfunding provides a platform where you can engage your whole community in the issue at stake, and get their support. It gives you the chance to support a specific, local issue even if you don’t have the time to be directly involved; or to get behind a big, fundamental issue that speaks to the change you want to see in the world.
3. CrowdJustice opens up a window into the world of law
Law itself is notoriously inaccessible – it is full of jargon and even when cases are covered in the press, that’s often after the end of a case, so we hear about it after the fact. As a normal person it can even be hard to know if there’s a legal solution to a problem that affects one’s community, or if all you can do is sign a petition and then hope the problem goes away.
But the law is there for us to use it. Whether we use it to object to the decision to cut down local trees, to challenge the government when it exceeds its powers; or to hold big corporates to account – it should be available to all of us.
By crowdfunding cases that affect communities, law instantly becomes more accessible: we know what issues are at stake, and we have a chance to get
4. It’s a way to make your voice heard – even after the election
Just after the election, I saw this post on Twitter:
Julia Salasky is founder of CrowdJustice. She is a non-practising solicitor who was an associate at Linklaters in London, before working as a lawyer for the United Nations