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Civil Right to Council Endorsed by the American Bar Association!

August 8, 2006: In a major leap forward for the national Civil Gideon movement, on Monday, August 7, 2006, the American Bar Association's House of Delegates UNANIMOUSLY passed Resolution 112A, proposed by the Presidential Task Force on Access to Civil Justice. The final version of the resolution is as follows:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody, as determined by each jurisdiction.

The significance of this resolution is that it signals the movement of the right to counsel movement from a small group of poor people without lawyers and poverty lawyers who wish they could do more, to the mainstream of the legal profession.  This progress confirms the analysis of Tony Benn (esteemed British parliamentarian and Labour Party leader):

"It's the same each time with progress.  First they ignore you, then they say you're mad, then dangerous, then there's a pause and then you can't find anyone who disagrees with you."

Bringing this resolution to the floor of the ABA has been a year long effort of the National Coalition for a Right to Civil Counsel (NCCRC), founded by the Public Justice Center and skillfully led by the PJC's Legal Director, Debra Gardner. Many members of the NCCRC deserve recognition for their efforts in drafting, meeting, persuading, and lobbying this resolution through the ABA, especially Deb Gardner and Debi Perluss and Paul Marvy from Washington state.  Particular credit goes to Steve Sachs, former Maryland Attorney General, and Maryland's Chief Judge Robert Bell as members of the Presidential Task Force, and to the members of the Maryland ABA Delegation who attended the Hawaii meeting and voted for the resolution. Michael Greco, the current President of the ABA, adopted the need for civil counsel as his signature contribution -- his passion and leadership were essential to passage of the resolution.

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