Civil Rights

Legal Assistance Lawyer Calls for 'Civil Gideon' in N.H.

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In a newspaper editorial today, a legal assistance lawyer calls for New Hampshire to follow recommendations of a state commission and the ABA and provide counsel to litigants who can’t afford attorneys in civil cases that affect fundamental rights.

Unable to afford lawyers, individuals can lose their homes and their children in civil cases. Although providing attorneys to such individuals, of course, would cost the state money, there is also a significant cost implicit in having a legal system that doesn’t do justice to those who can’t afford counsel, writes attorney Jonathan Baird of New Hampshire Legal Assistance in the Concord Monitor.

As Baird points out, the New Hampshire Citizens Commission on the State Courts, on which he served as a member, and the American Bar Association, in a 2006 resolution (PDF), have both called for a right to government-provided counsel in such civil cases. Because it would recognize, for civil litigants, a parallel right to the constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases upheld in the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case decided in 1963 by the U.S. Supreme Court, the movement to promoted by Baird to provide counsel to civil litigants in fundamental-rights cases is referred to as “civil Gideon.”

Additional coverage:

Tort Deform: “Right to Civil Counsel (‘Civil Gideon’)”

Oyez (summary): “Gideon v. Wainwright

Cornell University Law School (case): “Gideon v. Wainwright

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