Archives for June 2015

NY Passes ‘Aspirational’ Civil Gideon Measure

Here’s another civil Gideon milestone: New York’s senate and assembly have passed a non-binding “policy” of providing legal assistance to “persons in need of the essentials of life,” becoming the first state to take such action to provide civil representation. San Francisco and other cities have some level of civil Gideon programming.

The resolution was suggested in a 2014 report to Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman by the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services, to make the case for increasing available state funding for civil legal services over the past five state budgets.

Read more here.

Housing Rules Yet Another Huge SCOTUS 5-4 Decision

US supreme court image

Photo from CNN report: Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court

Obamacare and same-sex marriage naturally dominated attention over recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, but a huge housing issue also got a 5-4 ruling that leans toward the court’s liberal side. The court, in effect, re-affirmed a federal law passed in 1968 to combat housing discrimination by, as CNN explained, “… holding that the law allows not only claims for intentional discrimination but also, claims that cover practices that have a discriminatory effect, even if they were not motivated by an intent to discriminate.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the 5-4 opinion for a closely divided Court concerning the scope of the Fair Housing Act. He noted that “… much progress remains to be made in our nation’s continuing struggle against racial isolation.” His opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer.

Opponents including the state of Texas argued that the law punished outcomes without any intent of harming anyone, and actually injects more, not less, race into housing development decisions.

Read the CNN coverage here.

Monitor Publisher Offers High Praise For Plaintiff’s Research

In her most recent Huffington Post column, the Courts Monitor publisher offers strong praise for a byproduct of litigation – research. She also notes that lightening is more likely to hit your home than you might think and that the natural gas pipes used in building need a strong reform movement. Check it out here.

ABA President Says Tech Might Address Justice Gap

William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association. Photo: Memphis Daily News.

William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association. Photo: Memphis Daily News.

William C. Hubbard, president of the American Bar Association, is calling on lawyers to work with tech solutions to close the “justice gap.” Speaking to a group of lawyers in Tennessee, he said that “… despite all of our best efforts, we have not closed this justice gap despite more pro bono work and more support.”

Hubbard’s predecessor, James Silkenat, made civil courts news last year when he called for a “civil Gideon,” the idea that some civil cases like eviction and child custody rise to the point of requiring legal representation.

See the Hubbard story in the Memphis Daily News here.

Traffic ‘Debtors Prison’ Decried As California Courts Struggle

The San Diego Reader has a story up about how Orange County created a revenue-generating operation from traffic fines, collecting “bail” up front to both discourage challenges and assure court attendance. As with other areas around the nation, the traffic court has become a focal point in both terms of race and ability to pay.

Ken Harrison’s story in the Reader quotes Bill Niles, president of the California Traffic School Association, saying, “This was unconstitutional. Nobody should have to pay the fine before seeing a judge. People have had their cars taken away and their driver’s licenses suspended just because they couldn’t pay the fines. It was like debtors’ prison.”

Read the story here.