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Right to Counsel Presented at Sparer Symposium in Philadelphia

Time is Now for Civil Right to Counsel Say ABA President Greco, Advocates and Scholars at U. Penn Law School's Sparer Symposium

The civil right to counsel was the topic of the day at the University of Pennsylvania Law School's annual Sparer Symposium.  Advocates, scholars, and bar leaders from across the country gathered in Philadelphia to discuss how to improve access to counsel for low-income individuals and families in civil cases.  In his keynote address, American Bar Association President Michael Greco spoke forcefully about the civil right to counsel: "Nothing else defines our nation's commitment to equality more than our dedication to ensuring that people can vindicate their rights," he said.  He called on the nation to engage in a "serious discussion about the civil right to counsel."  Laura Abel, Deputy Director of the Poverty Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, presented a paper entitled "A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Lessons from Gideon v. Wainwright."  Abel advised "people interested in expanding the right to counsel in civil cases . . . to be aware of the criminal side experience explaining that the difficulties in implementing publicly-funded criminal defense counsel, and the current indigent defense reform movement, can help provide direction to advocates seeking to expand a right to counsel in civil cases.  Other advocates and scholars, including Debra Gardner of the Public Justice Center in Maryland, Deborah Perluss of the Northwest Justice Project in Washington, and Professors Beverly Balos, Bruce Boyer, and Russell Engler, explored particular litigation and public education strategies to expand the civil right to counsel.  Papers presented at the conference will be published in the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review next winter.

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