November 12, 2014

ABA online directory compiles laws that provide counsel to indigent civil litigants

CHICAGO, Nov. 13, 2014 – Many are familiar with the constitutional right to government-appointed counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer, but less well-known are judicial powers to provide representation for low-income parties in civil hearings involving child custody, housing, domestic relations and other matters where basic human needs are at stake.

A new online guide from the American Bar Association, the ABA Directory of Law Governing Appointment of Counsel in State Civil  Proceedings, informs judges, lawyers and others about existing provisions throughout the 50 states and the District of Columbia to appoint counsel for indigent civil litigants.

Although a substantial body of law requires or authorizes judges to provide counsel in various types of state civil proceedings, such authority may be unknown to or underutilized by trial judges. The directory remedies this knowledge gap with state-by-state summaries of relevant case law, court rules and statutory provisions for civil appointment authority, categorized by type of proceeding and easily accessed via a clickable map of the United States.

According to the introduction to the directory, judges across the country have reported that the rise in self-representation by the poor in civil courts harms litigants and the courts with ineffective presentation of cases, slowed court procedures and other problems.

The directory, produced by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, is available at

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