Attorneys for the Poor

There was an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times today about a new law that is being tested in California. This law will provide free attorneys for people who are unable to afford an attorney in important civil matters like child custody, eviction, predatory lending and other similar cases. Currently, a person is entitled to a free attorney if he is charged with a felony or misdemeanor crime and swears under oath that he cannot afford an attorney. Many Courts require an affidavit detailing the income and expenses, including any assets like a home, automobile, saving, or retirement account before an attorney will be appointed. Courts have also been known to require the person charged with a crime to repay the cost of the attorney if there is a guilty plea or guilty verdict. A court appointed lawyer only applies in criminal cases.

Under the new California law a person may be entitled to a court appointed lawyer is a civil case. This is unique. In the South there have been organizations know as Legal Services who provided representation for the poor but for years under the Republican dominated Congress the funding for Legal Services was reduced so small that the organizations are almost extinct. In some cases a group like the American Civil Liberties Union or The Center for Justice & Democracy might take up the case for someone unable to afford counsel, but typically the issues have to be broad enough to affect many people, not just the one needing the counsel. I feel that the program passed by the California legislature is a good thing. It was supported by both Republicans and Democrats. The divide between the rich and poor is growing larger each year. There is certainly nothing wrong with providing counsel in these cases.

Merrida Coxwell is a partner in Coxwell & Associates, PLLC. He handles serious injury, criminal, and financial fraud cases. For a free consultation call 1.601.948.1600.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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