For Thousands, Civil Courts Are Out of Reach

Every month, thousands of Oklahomans show up in local courts on civil cases with no attorney representing them because they can’t afford the fees or aren’t aware that legal aid is available.
News Story (Oklahoma)

Trevor Brown
Oklahoma Watch
September 20, 2016

Tags: Courts, Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Oklahoma Indian Legal Services (OILS), Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission (OATJC), Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, National Center for Access to Justice (NCAJ) at Fordham Law School


The lack of civil representation is so severe that a study released in December declared the situation to be a crisis that is “shocking in its depth and breadth.” That study by the Lobeck Taylor Family Advocacy Clinic at the University of Tulsa, was done for a commission created by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2014 to address the problem.

When it comes to the justice system and the poor or disenfranchised, people tend to think of criminal courts, in which a public defender must be appointed for the accused.

In civil cases there is no such requirement. That means individuals can face life-changing consequences of court rulings without being represented by a lawyer, said David Riggs, a former state attorney general who chairs the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission.