Civil Discourse: Lawmakers and Legal Experts Want to Expand Your Right to a Lawyer

A growing coalition of lawyers, legislators and judges hope to expand the right to a lawyer in civil cases.

News Story (New York)

Jill Jorgensen
New York Observer
August 20, 2015

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel, Housing: Eviction, Housing: Landlord-Tenant

Organizations mentioned/involved: National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (NCCRC)


“I think anyone facing a life-altering judgment—whether it’s incarceration, eviction, deportation, loss of custody of your children, foreclosure on a mortgage you have—anyone facing those kinds of judgements should have representation, in my opinion,” City Councilman Mark Levine told the Observer.

As a start, Mr. Levine has proposed legislation guaranteeing a right to a lawyer for low-income tenants facing eviction and homeowners facing foreclosure in housing court. It’s one of the incremental steps municipalities nationwide are looking to take in the absence of a full-fledged nationwide right to counsel—not for slip-and-fall tort lawsuits, advocates note, but for legal matters where “basic human needs” (housing, health, safety, sustenance and child custody) are at stake.

And it would be a very big step. “It would make it the first jurisdiction, city or state, to provide a right to counsel in a housing matter,” John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, said. “It’s impossible to overstate how incredible an achievement that would be.”