Criminal Justice

ABA House Urges Criminal Defense Lawyers to Address Clients' Civil and Nonlegal Problems

Criminal defense lawyers and defender organizations are being urged to go beyond the criminal legal needs of their clients in a resolution approved Monday by the ABA House of Delegates.

Resolution 107C says these lawyers and groups should also link with civil practitioners, civil legal services and social service providers who can help their clients with civil legal and nonlegal problems. The help could include hiring professionals who can help in these extra areas, according to the resolution.

The resolution also urges the lawyers to help reintegrate their clients into society with services such as expungement and re-establishment of rights, and urges governments and other funders of legal services to support the interrelated problems of defendants.

A report to the House of Delegates cites estimates that two-thirds of ex-cons will likely be rearrested within three years of their release. “If formerly incarcerated persons cannot find work, shelter, or help, they are much more likely to be caught in a recurring cycle of crime,” the report says. “A client-centered commitment to comprehensive defense representation recognizes that to be effective, defense counsel must attempt to address both the causes and the consequences of criminal justice involvement.”

Updated on Aug. 7 to link to Resolution 107C.

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