Kia Franklin

Cuts in Legal Aid Funding Further Victimize Abused Domestic Partners

In the Las Vegas Review Journal, an unfortunate example of denied access to the civil justice system, and yet another reason we need to establish Civil Gideon (a right to representation in important civil legal matters). As detailed in the article (excerpt below), the Department of Justice will no longer fund a group that provides legal assistance to victims of domestic violence in a region that greatly needs it:

CARSON CITY -- Though Nevada had the unfortunate distinction of being tops in the number of domestic violence deaths per capita in 2005, federal grant money to provide civil legal assistance to victims of the crime was not approved this year.

This is straining an already underfunded support network, officials said Friday.

Valerie Cooney, executive director of Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadans, said the group was surprised to learn last week that the state was not funded for about $425,000 in a civil legal assistance grant for this year from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"They didn't give a reason for the denial," she said. "They do have more requests for money than they have available."

But the denial, which came weeks after funding was supposed to have been made available to the eligible states, came as a surprise, Cooney said. Keep Reading

It is easy to imagine the devastating results this will have for people whose safety is threatened on a daily basis in their own homes. Unfortunately, we don't have to imagine what could happen.

This is one of the most tragic examples of the urgent need for access to the civil court system and to affordable representation in important civil legal matters. From the Brennan Center:

In the United States, the promise of “justice for all” is largely just that ­— a promise. Families with limited means find it impossible to protect their rights in matters of fundamental importance to their lives, including, evictions, wage claims, child custody, domestic violence, health insurance, mortgage foreclosure, education, and government benefits. The result is that many low-income people lead lives that are unnecessarily difficult, struggling to survive...

In the case of domestic violence, this struggle for survival is literally life-and-death. The Brennan Center has a wealth of helpful resources and information on access to justice issues, including this report. Visit their website for more information.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 5:18 PM, Oct 12, 2007 in Civil Gideon
Permalink | Email to Friend


If there was "Civil Gideon" how would you pay for it and how would you ensure that there would be attorneys to take the cases? Secondly, as there would be a flood of cases, how would you determine which cases to file?

Posted by: throckmorton | October 13, 2007 2:01 PM

Thanks for your comments. That's a good question that a lot of advocacy groups are tackling right now. Some recommend using IOLTA funds (the combined interest from trust accounts where lawyers keep their clients trial funds) and requiring IOLTA participation across the country and that banks offer fair interest rates on IOLTA accounts. Others recommend changing the way current federal funding of legal aid works--lifting unecessary restrictions that prohibit certain classes of people from receiving legal aid representation. Others recommend increasing federal funding. Other Western countries have provided this right for over 100 years. We can figure out a way to fund this.

I'm not sure about the second question. There already is a flood of cases--it's just that people are losing them (and the rights or entitlements at the heart of the cases) because they don't have access to adequate representation. If the question is, who qualifies, then that's a matter of asking 1) is the person indigent or otherwise prohibited from paying for a lawyer, and 2) is their legal matter one of basic human need (housing, sustenance, child custody, health, safety, etc.).

Posted by: Kia | October 16, 2007 4:54 PM