Archives for November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

To make sure our team has some time to be thankful, the Courts Monitor has suspended posting until Monday, Dec. 1, when we will resume our daily ration of civil justice rationing. Happy Thanksgiving, and watch for our “Year In Civil Courts” series in December. — The Editors.

Another Young Voice For Civil Gideon In Minnesota

Move over New York Times, a student essay from Minnesota is adding another strong voice in support of a “civil Gideon” movement to provide legal assistance in certain civil cases. The Minnesota Lawyer website published the essay by Katelyn Gross, of the Hawley Secondary School, this week.

The work was part of an annual scholarship competition, and Ms. Gross makes points like this: “… when someone breaks into a home and steals an expensive television set, that individual is entitled to attorney representation; by contrast, a poor person whose housing is wrongfully being taken from him is not entitled to counsel, even though the result may be homelessness for an entire family… homelessness is much more disastrous for a family than jail is for that one individual, and yet that family is not entitled to legal counsel.”

She makes a strong case. Read more here. 

NYT Boards The ‘Civil Gideon’ Train, Sort Of

Talk about an early Christmas gift: The New York Times has discovered the Civil Gideon issue! A Nov. 22 report focuses on a California program to assist people facing eviction, but it extends the conversation into the national crisis. For example, the newspaper says that “… free legal assistance in noncriminal cases is rare and growing rarer. A recent study in Massachusetts found that two-thirds of low-income residents who seek legal help are turned away. Nationally, important civil legal needs are met only about 20 percent of the time for low-income Americans, according to James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency that finances legal aid groups.”

The story mentions the Eviction Assistance Center, the California legal aid effort that advises “… low-income people in civil cases such as child custody, protective orders against abusers, guardianship and, most commonly, evictions.” The story also takes a shot at explaining the debate, reporting that the “.. pilot projects are part of a roiling discussion in legal circles about what is often called ‘Civil Gideon,’ a reference to Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision that established a right to counsel in criminal cases.” It also notes that, despite the name, the idea is not to provide help to all poor people, but only those facing challenges to basic human needs, like housing.

The piece is also a sort of directory for anyone seeking a list of service providers. For example: “We’re trying to level the playing field,” said Neal S. Dudovitz, the executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, a group that manages the eviction center in the downtown courthouse. With funds from the Shriver project, as the experiment is known, supporting about 16 lawyers from four legal aid groups, the center is providing full or partial assistance to one-third of the 15,000 tenants who face evictions each year in this courthouse alone.”

Obama Does Congress’ Job on Immigration, is Immigration Courts Reform Next?

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner, writing at the Huffington Post “politics” page, notes that President Obama has stepped up to do Congress’ job on immigration; now, she wonders, will the president also address problems in his Justice Department’s immigration courts? With hundreds of thousands of cases pending and a federal investigation into nepotism, it would seem a good next step. Read it here.

N.M. Immigrant Detention Center Closing

The high-profile immigrant detention center in Artesia, N.M., is closing, the San Diego Union Tribune is reporting. The paper says that “… the government told some members of Congress about its plans Tuesday, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement later confirmed the closure to the AP. The administration indicated the facility was no longer needed because they are expanding jails elsewhere.”

The U-T adds that: “The Homeland Security Department opened the detention center at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, in late June amid a crush of tens of thousands of Central American families caught crossing the border illegally. The facility had space to jail about 700 people facing deportation.”

Phillip Burch, the mayor of Artesia, said in the past six weeks 448 Central American mothers and children have been released from the detention center and 28 were deported. You can read the story here.