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Slamming the Courthouse Doors: Denial of Access to Justice and Remedy in America

Actions of the executive, federal legislative, and judicial branches of the United States have seriously restricted access to justice for victims of civil liberties and human rights violations, and have limited the availability of effective (or, in some cases, any) remedies for these violations. Weakened judicial oversight and recent attempts to limit access to justice by attacking plaintiffs’ and defendants’ standing, discovery rights and the courts’ jurisdiction, are denying victims of human rights violations their day in court and protecting responsible officials and corporations from litigation.

Over the last decade, there has been a serious erosion in the ability of, among others, immigrants, prisoners, and detainees in the “war on terror” to use the writ of habeas corpus in U.S. courts to challenge the constitutionality of their ongoing detention, significantly circumscribing the availability of a most potentially significant remedy. For example, federal legislation, most prominently the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), and Supreme Court decisions, have greatly limited access to federal review of state court death penalty convictions.

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