Sunday, May 26, 2013

'Civil Gideon': A public defender for all legal woes

Should the indigent be entitled to free legal counsel for things like child custody, eviction or child support, a sort of "civil Gideon." In a perfect world--of course.  In a world where the expenditures for indigent defense in criminal cases are being slashed--unlikely.

 “What does ‘civil Gideon’ mean?” In the landmark United States Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), the Court decided that indigent defendants have a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney, at no charge, in state criminal cases.

The term “civil Gideon” refers to a growing national movement that has developed to explore strategies to provide legal counsel, as a matter of right and at public expense, to low-income persons in civil legal proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter and child custody.

State and national studies estimate that a staggering 80 percent of critical legal needs of low-income people go unmet due to grossly insufficient funding and support.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ron Castille argued that it's a "civil Gideon" is a no-brainer: Pay for the services by carving out a dedicated line item in the state budget.

"We should be treating civil legal services for indigent individuals and families as an important government service," he said. "Like roads, like police services, like the courts."

The question is who is going to pay for it?  Indigent defense in criminal cases is inadequate in many places and has been ignored or cut on a federal, state and local level around the country.  'Civil Gideon' is a feel good idea, that will have little legislative support.

To read more:

No comments:

Post a Comment