Editor's Note: The ACYL will be sponsoring the AVLF's Saturday Morning Lawyer on April 27. We asked Michael Lucas to share why lawyers should serve as an AVLF volunteer, either with the ACYL or on another Saturday. Michael's discussion of the need and tremendous support available at AVLF convinced us to participate, and we hope it convinces you as well.
This month is the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling in Gideon v. Wainright, which held that states must provide counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford an attorney. While there is still a very long way to go to fully realize the promise of Gideon, the case was groundbreaking and much progress has been made in making that right a reality in the criminal context.
Fifty years later, however, "Civil Gideon" - the idea that there should be a right to counsel for those who cannot afford an attorney in a civil context, at least in the more critical areas of rights and relationships - has never really gotten off the ground, much less become a reality. While discussed at conferences or by various commissions over the last few decades, there is still no such right to counsel except in the narrowest of civil contexts, namely with the deprivation of parental rights.