Monday, January 31, 2011
There is a growing movement for a right to an attorney in civil cases, sometimes known as a civil Gideon, coupled with increased funding for civil legal services and legal aid. We've discussed the right to counsel in civil litigation here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Judge Jonathan Lippman has recently written in the NY Law Journal that:
At best, only 20 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income New Yorkers are being met today. Providers have no choice but to turn away vast numbers of eligible clients, including eight out of every nine in New York City.
One result of this deepening crisis is that the courts are seeing an ever-expanding number of unrepresented litigants. We heard testimony from judges, clients, lawyers and others about what happens when litigants try to navigate the courts without counsel.
Befitting his role as chief judge of New York's highest court, Lippman is not making any constitutional arguments. Instead, he posits that there is a "moral and ethical obligation" as well as making efficiency and effectiveness claims. He suggests that
the state begin to reduce the unmet civil legal services needs in those matters that concern the "essentials of life": a roof over one's head, family stability, personal safety free from domestic violence, access to health care and education, or subsistence income and benefits.
This is the recommendation in the Report issued by The Task Force to Expand Legal Services in New York; Judge Lippman presided over the hearings held throughout the state. A New York Times Editorial essentially endorsed the Task Force's recommendation.
Lippman will be speaking at City University of New York School of Law on Thursday, February 3, about the right to an attorney in civil cases.
Admission is free
RSVP required: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: Discussion of event in New York Law Journal, February 7, 2011.