A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases: Lessons from Gideon v. Wainwright

Publication Date: January 2006

Publisher: Brennan Center for Justice

Author(s): Laura K. Abel

Research Area: Human rights; Justice

Keywords: Justice; Civil Justice; Civil Right to Counsel

Type: Report


Enthusiasm for the notion of a right to counsel in civil cases inevitably runs up against the reality that implementation of the right to counsel in criminal proceedings has been piecemeal. More than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court posited in Gideon v. Wainwright a constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases, in some parts of the country serious difficulties in securing that right remain. Any exploration of a civil right to counsel—a right often labeled a “civil Gideon”—must be based on an understanding of the criminal right-to-counsel experience.