Wednesday, February 24, 2016
John Pollock of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel announced that the organization has listings of all of the 2016 right to counsel bills filed in the state legislatures across the country. Along with a summary of the bills, sponsors, current status and a link to the bill on Legiscan are part of the tracking done by the Coalition. The listings are updated frequently.
The Civil Right to Counsel (Civil Gideon) has been at the forefront of US Human Rights legal work. Advocates recognize that once individuals engage the US Justice system, litigants can fairly pursue justice only with competent legal advice and representation. As the Coalition's website aptly states "You have the right to counsel - unless you are about to lose your home, your children or your healthcare". Nowhere does the gap between the wealthy and those with limited resources become more apparent than in the legal system. Even the vanishing middle class has limited options in retaining counsel when hourly bills can quickly reach $20,000.00 in a custody suit, and often much more than that. Poverty easily can be the result of litigation where a homeowner may barely be meeting payments but becomes devastated by a lawsuit, health problem or other unexpected circumstances. If we want the legal system to not just be available to all, but be beneficial to those who engage the system, the process must address equity as soon as an individual enters the system. Justice can be achieved only if both parties are appointed counsel in those cases where the outcome could have serious, if not devastating, consequences to one or both of the parties.