Op-Ed: We have a right to counsel in criminal cases. Why not in evictions?
I am incredibly excited to share that I’ve had an op-ed published in the Washington Post in print and online today on the need for a civil right to counsel in eviction cases.
Our Constitution guarantees the right to an attorney to those accused of a crime, as upheld in the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright. But for those at risk of losing their homes, there’s no such guarantee. That’s because Gideon covers only criminal cases, and eviction proceedings are a civil matter.
This needs to change. Congress and state lawmakers should act to pass legislation to ensure all families have their day in court.
Eviction has devastating and long-lasting consequences for low-income families. Having just one eviction on your record can make it nearly impossible to find stable and safe housing again. Being evicted also leads to depression, poorer health and higher levels of stress, and the side effects can persist for years, according to research from Rice University and Harvard University.
I should know. I was traumatized the first time my family was evicted when I was a child in Alabama. The second time was no less harrowing.