Proposals to increase access to free lawyers in civil cases

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2016 3:22 AM

More than two dozen bills being considered in 18 states this year would expand poor people's rights to a lawyer at state expense in certain civil cases, according to the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, which is run by the Public Justice Center nonprofit in Baltimore.

A look at some of the legislation:

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FLORIDA

On March 11, the state House and Senate approved a bill that would require judges to appoint lawyers with the state Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel to represent people facing involuntary outpatient treatment for substance abuse, if they cannot afford their own attorneys.

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GEORGIA

State lawmakers approved legislation that would give mentally ill people the right to a free lawyer if they cannot afford one when an order for involuntary inpatient treatment is about to expire and medical experts request continued involuntary treatment.

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KENTUCKY

Lawmakers are considering a proposal to appoint free lawyers for indigent parents before hearings in which the state is seeking temporary removal of their children from their home, rather than after the hearing.

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MASSACHUSETTS

Lawmakers are considering requiring free legal counsel to poor people in certain eviction cases.

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MISSISSIPPI

Legislators are debating a proposal to allow courts to appoint lawyers for indigent people facing termination of their parental rights.

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NEW JERSEY

A bill would give low-income people a right to an appointed attorney in cases involving involuntary commitment for substance abuse treatment.

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NEW YORK

Lawmakers are considering creating a right to a free lawyer for poor people facing eviction or foreclosure.

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OREGON

Lawmakers this month passed legislation that would appoint lawyers at state expense for financially eligible juveniles for court hearings on whether the juveniles have to register as sex offenders.

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PENNSYLVANIA

Legislators are debating a bill that would allow court-appointed lawyers at public expense to represent indigent people facing involuntary commitment for substance abuse.

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Source: National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, legislatures