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In Louisiana Civil Courts, the Poor are Left to Defend Themselves (LA)

Thursday, March 14, 2019

In Louisiana Civil Courts, the Poor are Left to Defend Themselves

"Forty-six states provide funding to help their most vulnerable citizens secure free legal assistance in civil matters. The amounts vary widely, according to the American Bar Association: Arkansas provides $556,000 annually; Mississippi $708,000; Georgia $3.1 million; and Texas nearly $72 million.

Louisiana, which has the worst health care, the second highest rates of poverty and domestic violence, as well as being more prone to natural disasters than all but 10 states, provides nothing.

The consequences of this can be devastating both individually and to a state’s economy, said James Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, a national nonprofit that provides funding for civil legal aid. If indigent people can’t effectively access the courts, they lose the ability to protect their vital interests such as housing, employment, health insurance, and parental rights, he said.

“Most Americans don’t realize there is no right to a lawyer in a civil case,” Sandman said. “They don’t realize you could lose your home or your children or be a victim of abuse in need of a protective order and you have no right to a lawyer. Fortunately, the vast majority of states recognize the role of government in trying to make the system accessible to all people, regardless of their incomes.”

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services – a nonprofit that provides free legal representation in 22 parishes, including Orleans – does what it can to fill the gap and meet the substantial demand, but it does so with limited resources..."

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