Kia Franklin

Should You Lose Custody of Your Kid if you Can’t Afford a Lawyer?

According to the law as it stands, this could happen, and does. But if you're entitled a lawyer when there's a possibility of jail-time, shouldn't you also have access to an attorney to help you keep your kid when you can't afford one on your own?

A Washington woman and her attorneys on appeal (at the law firm where I once interned, I might add) are fighting to make the law reflect this common sense. This ABA article discusses her case. The case is part of a nationwide effort to expand the right to counsel in civil cases in areas where health, housing, safety, food or family issues are involved. The effort is known as Civil Gideon, because it is the civil law equivalent to the right to counsel for criminal defendants, established in the Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainright. See here for prior posts on Civil Gideon.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 5:06 PM, Jul 13, 2007 in
Permalink | Email to Friend


If you get the right to counsel, how will it be paid for? In medicine we have EMTALA so a person just shows up in the emergency room and we have to triage a and stabalize him or her for free. Perhaps we could set up "legal emergency rooms" that way people could come in and get free legal care. Attorneys would have to staff the "legal ER" as part of thier privaledges to practice law in the courts just as physicians must cover the Emergency Room as part of their privaledges to practice in the hospital.

Taking this a step further, these poor people could then sue thier "Legal Emergency Attorneys" when they feel that they did not get a result that met with their satisfaction or whenever they felt like it. In this was they could get some jackpot money and then afford other more expensive attorneys.

I think "Civil Gideon" is a great idea!

Posted by: throckmorton | July 13, 2007 10:16 PM

Civil Gideon advocates have come up with several efficient ways to pay for this service, including using IOLTA money (interest accrued from bank accounts holding legal fees money), using a portion of the fees attorneys pay to practice in their state, and repealing corporate welfare tax laws that allow companies to write-off their lawsuits (using this money instead to fund Civil Gideon). That's just a few--there are actually a bunch of different options being tossed around.

There are sort of "legal emergency rooms"--there are emergency legal services programs that let people come if they need quick and free advice from attorneys. Lawyers do it on a voluntary basis. Maybe we should rquire lawyers to do a percentage of pro bono hours.

Posted by: Kia | July 18, 2007 10:58 AM