PJC In The News

‘‘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

By John Pollock, published in The United States Law Week, The Bureau of National Affairs 

June 18, 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 marking its 50th anniversary this year.

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.

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