Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wise public policy?

A recent case in America could illustrate what the future holds for low-income litigants in this country, if the exodus of legal aid lawyers continues. Mother of three Brenda King could not afford representation in a custody dispute. She couldn't find pro bono help and therefore had to represent herself. Unsurprisingly, she lost the case, and to rub salt into the wound she was ordered to pay $7,500 costs. She subsequently appealed to the state Supreme Court for a new trial, this time with a divorce lawyer at public expense. Her appeal was refused.

There are already legal aid 'deserts' in this country. They are growing bigger, and the Government is deaf to calls for more money to stop the exodus. How long before Mrs King's experience becomes typical over here? Interestingly, one of the Justices that ruled against her suggested that the Legislature may want to extend the constitutional right to an attorney to divorce cases when a party can't afford to hire a lawyer, as a matter of "wise public policy".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. Constructive comments are always welcome, even if they do not coincide with my views! Please note, however, that comments will be removed or not published if I consider that:
* They are not relevant to the subject of this post; or
* They are (or are possibly) defamatory; or
* They breach court reporting rules; or
* They contain derogatory, abusive or threatening language; or
* They contain 'spam' advertisements (including links to any commercial websites).
Please also note that I am unable to give advice.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.