California Moves Towards Civil Right to Counsel

california-state-flagToday California became the first state to establish a pilot program to provide appointed counsel to low-income people in civil legal matters.    The program is scheduled to be in effect from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2017.  Low -income people will receive appointed counsel for assistance in critical civil legal matters in areas like disability law, family law, and housing law.  California will pay for the program by redirecting a $10 court fee increase that had already been approved.

                I’m excited by this development and wish that more states, including Wisconsin, would establish similar programs.   Too many poor people with critical legal needs navigate a complicated system without legal assistance.   When parties with critical legal needs are represented, the system is fairer and more efficient.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Rick Sankovitz

    Thanks for passing this along, and for your endorsement — in fact a lot of people are looking to see how successful this can be in California in hopes of duplicating it to one degree or another here in Wisconsin.


  2. Tony Cotton

    A program like this would be very beneficial for low income defendants. In my practice I know of many individuals who navigate the civil system without counsel because of their indigency.

    There are also a lot of criminal defendants who navigate the criminal system without counsel for the same reasons. As the California proposal is debated in Wisconsin, we also need to have a serious discussion about the public defender eligibility rates. The standards that are currently in place have remained unchanged for well over 20 years. Although the Supreme Court held in Gideon that an indigent defendant is entitled to legal representation at public expense this mandate remains unfulfilled.

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