DC Council – Committee Report on Access to Justice: When the District of Columbia Counsel took up the 2011 funding request for the Access to Justice Program, it took the extraordinary step of issuing a separate Committee Report. Access to Justice funding supports direct legal assistance, language access and poverty lawyer loan forgiveness. During the last three budget considerations, the Attorney General had sought major cuts to the program. On each occasion, the Council, led by Public Safety Committee Chair Phil Mendelson, saved the program. The Committee report urges: “The District of Columbia, as our nation’s capital and the seat of democracy, should serve as a model in the provision of legal services and ensure all residents have equal access to the justice system.” It is well worth a read.
ABA Model Act on Access to Justice: In 2006, the ABA adopted a resolution supporting the expansion of the right to council in civil cases. “RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, and territorial governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low income persons in those categories of adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake, such as those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody, as determined by each jurisdiction.”
During its upcoming August meeting, the House of Delegates will consider two further resolutions designed to take a big step towards implementation of these goals – a model right to counsel act and a statement of Basic Principles of a Right to Counsel in Civil Legal Proceedings. We are grateful for the work of the ABA on these important resolutions.