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A Civil Right to Counsel: International and National Trends
  • Tarik N. Jallad, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Equal Justice Under Law” – This concept – better yet, promise – is proudly advertised to all atop our Nation’s highest court.1 What many fail to see however, is the fine print restricting this promise to those who can afford its application. The fact is that depending on your wealth, you may or may not receive your “equal justice under law” and be ultimately limited from adequately accessing justice. An indigent’s inability to properly access our justice system is by no means a new concept.2 Although progress in certain circumstances has been made – namely in the criminal sense – we continue to fall short of our promise. What’s worse and to a degree embarrassing, is that this defining sense of equality that our justice system speaks so avidly about has become a growing standard in many western democracies. Without talking about equality at the level we do, many of our neighboring countries consistently practice what we have preached for so long. It is time – it has long been time – for us to mend the broken promise that we have made to poor and rich alike.

As a nation, we are no strangers to fundamental change within our justice system. Change has positively occurred on the criminal front, although further progress is arguably needed before we can rightly consider our system to be “equal.” However, civil litigants – particularly poor civil litigants – still face an unjust amount of difficulties when trying to access our justice system. One major obstacle is rooted in the fact that to this day, the courts have failed to find a broad right for a civil litigant to be appointed counsel. The objective of this research paper is to explore the possibilities for a “civil right to counsel” and to focus on what has taken shape in various jurisdictions. After exploring numerous court opinions and inspiring articles, this paper will be discussing the developing courtroom trends, both successful and not, that have developed throughout certain western democracies and the United States.

Publication Date
Fall August, 2009
Citation Information
Tarik N. Jallad. "A Civil Right to Counsel: International and National Trends" (2009)
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