Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Brian Brophy


While the United States Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteed the right to counsel in criminal trials, the poor are often left without representation in civil cases. These cases can have devastating impacts on the poor's access to housing, welfare benefits, children, and more. In 2009, California passed the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, which created pilot projects that guarantee access to counsel in civil cases for indigent Californians. This note examines how state legislatures can use California's act as a model to expand access to counsel into the civil context. If state officials are shown the dire need for counsel, the effects lack of counsel have on the poor, and that providing access to counsel for the poor makes economic sense for state and local governments, other states might follow California's lead. Given the current economic crisis, it is more urgent than ever that the poor be given an opportunity to enter the civil justice system on an even playing field.

Included in

Law and Race Commons