Legal representation is fundamental to safeguarding fair, equal, and meaningful ac- cess to the legal system. Yet, in the United States, millions of people who are poor or low-income are unable to obtain legal representation when facing a crisis such as eviction, foreclosure, domestic violence, workplace discrimination, termination of subsistence income or medical assistance, and loss of child custody. Indeed, only a small fraction of the legal problems experienced by low-income and poor people living in the United States – less than one in five – are addressed with the assistance of legal representation. A categorical right to counsel in civil cases is not recognized under the federal Constitution. And federal programs to provide civil counsel are under-funded and severely restricted. The result is a crisis in unmet legal needs which disproportionately harms racial minorities, women and those living in poverty, and which particularly impacts those in immigration proceedings.
Human Rights Clinic,
Access to Justice: Ensuring Meaningful Access to Counsel in Civil Cases,
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/human_rights_institute/46