'You Have a Right to a Lawyer...If You Can Afford It': A Look at the History of the Right to Counsel in Civil Cases and the Current Efforts to Expand It
Bloomberg BNA Vol. 81 No. 48 at 1797 (June 18, 2013)
5 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2015
Date Written: 2013
At some point or another, everyone in America has probably seen a TV show or movie where a police officer has told someone that, ‘You have a right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you.’ That right in criminal cases stems from Gideon v. Wainwright, a case that marked its 50th anniversary in 2013.
But many would be surprised to learn that this right, for the most part, does not extend to civil cases, regardless of what is at stake or what limitations the litigant may have. They might also be surprised to learn that the United States stands mostly alone in this regard; much of the rest of the industrialized world provides a right to counsel in civil cases. This article explains how the law on the right to counsel in both criminal and civil cases has developed, then focuses on historical and current efforts to expand the right to counsel in civil cases, a movement called either ‘civil Gideon’ or ‘civil right to counsel.’
Keywords: civil right to counsel, civil, Gideon
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