Info On The ‘Civil Gideon’ Issue

Our recent mention of Civil Gideon – the idea that citizens should have a right to an attorney in some civil cases just like they do in criminal cases – brought some requests for more info. We would refer to the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (link below) and note the milestone New York Times op-ed by Matthew Desmond, an author and assistant professor of sociology and social studies at Harvard.

Desmond wrote in 2012 about the problem of housing evictions: “… in many housing courts around the country, 90 percent of landlords are represented by attorneys and 90 percent of tenants are not. This imbalance of power is as unfair as the solution is clear. When tenants have lawyers, their chances of keeping their homes increase dramatically. Establishing publicly funded legal services for low-income families in housing court is a cost-effective social policy that would prevent homelessness and uphold our ideals of fundamental fairness.”

Desmond acknowledged that his research indicated we have many fair, honest and hardworking landlords but also noted that many people keep their homes when they have lawyers. Research newest trends, like Ohio’s move to provide lawyers in eviction cases, here: Civil Right to Counsel.