A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Lessons from Gideon v. Wainwright
Clearinghouse Review Journal of Poverty Law and Policy, July-August 2006
10 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2010
Date Written: 2006
The country’s experience with the criminal right to counsel, first established by the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963, provides important lessons for bar leaders, advocates and others seeking the expansion of the right to counsel in civil cases. In Gideon, the Supreme Court recognized the categorical right to counsel in criminal cases twenty-one years after refusing to recognize such a right. Some of the conditions that led to this reversal already are in place on the civil side, including: academic condemnation of the decision denying the right to counsel, growing recognition of the problems caused by case-by-case determination of the right, and growing recognition of the ways in which states benefit when low-income people have counsel. The right to counsel in criminal cases has been accompanied by numerous practical difficulties, which must be addressed on the civil side but should not preclude recognition of the right. For a right to counsel to succeed, there must be adequate funding; lawyers must be trained, supervised, provided with adequate resources, and insulated from pressure by the appointing authority; and minimum standards for counsel must be implemented and enforced. The indigent defense reform movement provides a blueprint for successful reform efforts. Among other things, it combines litigation and legislative efforts, and documents both harm to individuals and costs to society resulting from inadequate representation.
Keywords: right to counsel, criminal, civil gideon, low-income, legal representation, Gideon v. Wainwright, Supreme Court, indigent defense reform, legal training
JEL Classification: I3, K1, K4, I18, J18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation