Newsweek Notes ‘Civil Gideon’ In Eviction Issue

If 2015 is going to be the “Tipping Point” year for civil Gideon in the United States, then stories like a recent Newsweek report are going to play an important role. Writer Victoria Bekiempis calls the right to council in eviction proceedings “another civil rights movement… quietly gaining momentum.”
Some key points in her report: In New York City, some 90 percent of tenants in housing court don’t have attorneys while about 90 percent of landlords do; about one-third of persons in NYC homeless shelters arrive immediately after an eviction; some 30,000 families were evicted last year; each bed in a New York City homeless shelter costs $36,000 annually, experts say, while it would cost $1,600 to $3,200 to represent a client in housing court.
Bekiempis’ story is the sort of year-starter that gets picked up (like, say, we’re doing now) and includes important resources for anyone interested in how justice gets rationed. For civil Gideon fans, it’s already required reading, and you can find it here: Housing: The Other Civil Rights Movement.

Senator Seeks Cameras In Fed. Courts

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, poised to become Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, is already making increased court transparency a priority. The Des Moines Register reports that the senator “… is again encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to add cameras in the courtroom.” His encouragement comes in the wake of U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts dedicating his year-end “state of the courts” report on technology, but without even mentioning cameras in the courtroom.
“In his year-end report, Chief Justice Roberts rightly promotes how the courts have embraced new technology,” Grassley is quoted as saying in the report from the Associated Press. “Unfortunately, though, the courts have yet to embrace the one technology that the founders would likely have advocated for — cameras in the courtroom. The founders intended for trials to be held in front of all people who wished to attend.”
The senator has introduced legislation to force the courts to allow cameras and says he will do so again. See the story here: Grassley: Put cameras in the Supreme Court


Roberts Promises Supreme Court E-filing

U.S. Chief Justice Robert’s annual “state of the judiciary” report has brought the usual level of yawn, but his comments on court tech did catch some media. A good example is from The Washington Post, which noted that “… there is, in fact, a nugget of newsy news in Roberts’s“2014 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary”: The Supreme Court will bypass the federal judiciary’s somewhat troubled electronic case-filing system in favor of its own, expected to come in 2016. But the chief justice’s accounting is perhaps most useful for what, with a bit of between-the-lines reading, it reveals about why, he admits, ‘the courts will often choose to be late to the harvest of American ingenuity.'”
It’s not all that encouraging for anyone hoping the nation’s highest court would become more transparent, especially since issues like cameras in the courtroom seem far, far away.