Better access to legal representation is crucial — even in civil cases

Providing lawyers to more civil litigants should be a priority — in order to make the justice system as fair as we expect it to be.

Editorial (California)

Los Angeles Times (LA Times)
April 20, 2019

Tags: Civil Right to Counsel


A New York program that provides free legal representation to tenants resulted in a sharp drop in wrongful evictions, according to a recent study. Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Detroitand San Francisco are launching similar programs. Los Angeles, too, is considering a “right” to counsel for indigent tenants. Some of those jurisdictions extend the right to parties in child dependency and other civil cases. Many others provide a right to counsel in involuntary commitment cases.

Of course, “civil Gideon” is not a constitutional right, for tenants or anyone else. Funding for government-provided attorneys can be diverted when the next recession hits or political trends change. Representation for tenants this year could become representation for, say, domestic violence victims next year.