Who gets a lawyer?

Former vice president Walter F. Mondale

Former vice president Walter F. Mondale

On the 46th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright (the 1963 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing counsel to indigent people facing criminal charges), former vice-president Walter Mondale writes in today’s Washington Post about the failure of states around the country to appoint lawyers to poor defendants  in criminal cases–and the need to expand the right into civil matters.

“A number of lawyers groups, led by the American Bar Association, have endorsed an expansion of the right to counsel recognized by Gideon to noncriminal matters where important legal rights, such as loss of housing, are at stake,” Mondale wrote in today’s op ed.

“Many European countries provide such representation to indigent civil litigants,” he continued. “The backtracking that we are experiencing in the area of criminal representation undermines these efforts to move forward in the civil area. Our justice system depends on the idea that everyone is to be treated fairly, but a lack of resources is affecting the progress the Gideon decision brought to our criminal justice system and is blocking progressive efforts to extend the right to counsel in certain civil cases.” To read the op-ed, click here.


One response to “Who gets a lawyer?

  1. With all of the lawyers in this country, there is still a huge need among people of limited funds for legal representation- something attorneys at Legal Aid know all too well. If it were part of a service/loan forgiveness program, the civil right to counsel could have some great practical benefits for lawyers themselves, in addition to leveling the scales of justice. One, it would make law school an attractive option for more who are interested in public service. Two, it would provide excellent experience and increase the humanity and quality of those lawyers who do it, even if they eventually move on to other, more lucrative areas.

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