The Case For ‘Gideon’ For Domestic Violence Victims

We’ve made the case for some level of “civil Gideon” for years. That’s the idea that some civil actions, like eviction or child custody, rise to a life-changing level that requires the kind of legal guarantee we have in teh criminal system – you know, if you cannot afford a lawyer one will be provided. Now Melissa Jeltsen, a senior editor at The Huffington Post, makes that case that people facing domestic violence should make that list.

“Lawyers are expensive, and women who need them often can’t afford them,” she notes. “Without legal counsel, it can be harder for women to get protective orders, leave their abusive partners and escape the cycle of violence. And women stuck in violent relationships tend to miss work because of injury or rack up hospital bills they can never pay off, according to the report by The Institute for Policy Integrity, a nonpartisan think tank.

With one in four women in the U.S. estimated to become victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, this dynamic has major economic repercussions. As the report notes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that domestic violence costs the U.S. at least $9.05 billion each year.”