October 1, 2013: New York State Bar Association and 18 Law Schools Sponsor Forum on Right to Counsel in Civil Matters

The New York State Bar Association— and 18 law schools in three states—are hosting a forum on October 3 to explore the right to counsel in civil matters where basic human needs are at stake.

Judges, attorneys, professors and students at 15 law schools in New York and three in New Jersey and Connecticut will participate in the event featuring a webcast followed by campus programs. 

The forum comes 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Clarence Earl Gideon, who could not afford to hire an attorney to defend him in a criminal case, had a right to counsel at government expense. In Gideon v. Wainwright, the court found that it was an “obvious truth” that a criminal defendant cannot have a fair trial unless counsel is appointed.

During Thursday’s event, participants will discuss whether there is an equally obvious truth that there should be a right to counsel for low-income individuals facing civil legal actions that could result in eviction from their homes, loss of child custody or denial of basic human services.

The program will begin at 5 p.m. with a webcast from the State Bar Center in Albany featuring remarks by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and State Bar President David M. Schraver of Rochester (Nixon Peabody).

They will be followed by a panel of experts, including: Martha Davis, professor at Northeastern University Law School; Hon. Fern Fisher, deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City Courts and director of the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program; Bryan Hetherington, general counsel of the Empire Justice Center; and John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel. Andrew Scherer, author of Residential Landlord-Tenant Law in New York, will moderate the discussion. 

Following the webcast, individual law schools will host local, campus-based programs. For further information about those programs, contact the individual law schools.

The law schools participating in the “Civil Gideon” program are: Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Columbia University School of Law, Cornell Law School, CUNY Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Hofstra University School of Law, New York Law School, New York University School of Law, Pace University School of Law, Rutgers School of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, Seton Hall University School of Law, Syracuse University College of Law, Touro Law Center, University at Buffalo Law School and Yale Law School.

The 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.


Contact: Brandon J. Vogel 
Media Writer