NYT Boards The ‘Civil Gideon’ Train, Sort Of

Talk about an early Christmas gift: The New York Times has discovered the Civil Gideon issue! A Nov. 22 report focuses on a California program to assist people facing eviction, but it extends the conversation into the national crisis. For example, the newspaper says that “… free legal assistance in noncriminal cases is rare and growing rarer. A recent study in Massachusetts found that two-thirds of low-income residents who seek legal help are turned away. Nationally, important civil legal needs are met only about 20 percent of the time for low-income Americans, according to James J. Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, a federal agency that finances legal aid groups.”
The story mentions the Eviction Assistance Center, the California legal aid effort that advises “… low-income people in civil cases such as child custody, protective orders against abusers, guardianship and, most commonly, evictions.” The story also takes a shot at explaining the debate, reporting that the “.. pilot projects are part of a roiling discussion in legal circles about what is often called ‘Civil Gideon,’ a reference to Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision that established a right to counsel in criminal cases.” It also notes that, despite the name, the idea is not to provide help to all poor people, but only those facing challenges to basic human needs, like housing.
The piece is also a sort of directory for anyone seeking a list of service providers. For example: “We’re trying to level the playing field,” said Neal S. Dudovitz, the executive director of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, a group that manages the eviction center in the downtown courthouse. With funds from the Shriver project, as the experiment is known, supporting about 16 lawyers from four legal aid groups, the center is providing full or partial assistance to one-third of the 15,000 tenants who face evictions each year in this courthouse alone.”

Court Funding Gets S.D. ABC Report

The San Diego ABC News affiliate is offering some “overview” coverage of the state’s civil courts funding crisis. The story offers nothing new, but is a recent example of more mainstream press starting to notice the “five-year” crisis in justice funding. The reporters offer the insight that “Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to solve the problem” – they cite no source, but certainly plenty of justice advocates would question the governor’s motives.
The usual territory is covered: Gov. Brown’s proposed a $105 million budget increase for 14/15 and the station asks:  But is it enough to help the judicial system bounce back? We also get what has become the most-quoted talking point from California Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, “We are rationing justice, and it’s become more than a fiscal problem… it is in my view not a civil rights problem.”
Also cites is the failed statewide computer system, with the ABC report saying that “… eyebrows were raised over the $1.2 billion that was spent on a computer system overhaul — a computer system that never worked.” You can read more between the lines here: Budget woes: Can California’s judicial system recover from a five-year crisis?