U.S. hears from advocates on access to justice and CRTC
09/20/2022, Report, All Basic Human Needs
In 2014, there was a meeting (called the "civil society consultation on access to justice") in which access to justice leaders were able to give input to United States representatives on how it should implement suggestions from the U.N.'s 2010 Universal Periodic Review regarding access to justice and what the U.S. should include in its CERD compliance report. Debra Gardner testified on behalf of the NCCRC. There is a recording of the session, and for more information, check out American University's page about the UPR.
In 2022, there was another meeting in which advocates (including the NCCRC) called upon the CERD Committee to push the U.S. on access to justice, including by expanding the right to counsel. In response, the CERD Committee's Concluding Observations note the following:
The Committee notes the measures adopted by the State party to close the gap between the need for and the availability of legal assistance, such as the Presidential Memorandum on Restoring the Department of Justice’s Access-to-Justice Function and reinvigorating the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable of 18 May 2021. It also notes the right-to-counsel initiatives adopted at the local level to ensure that litigants have equal access to
justice in civil proceedings, regardless of income, such as in New Orleans, New York and San Francisco, among other localities. Despite these efforts, the Committee remains concerned at the challenges faced by indigent persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities with regard to effective access to legal counsel in criminal proceedings. It also remains concerned at the lack of a generally recognized right to counsel in civil proceedings, which disproportionately affects indigent persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, when seeking effective remedies in matters such as evictions, foreclosures, discrimination in employment, domestic violence, loss of child custody, termination of subsistence income or medical assistance, and deportation (art. 6).
The Committee reiterates its recommendation19 that the State party adopt all necessary measures to address the disproportionate impact that systemic inadequacies in criminal defence programmes for indigent persons have on defendants belonging to racial and ethnic minorities, including by improving the quality of legal representation and ensuring that public legal aid systems are adequately funded and supervised. It also
reiterates the recommendation that the State party adopt measures to ensure effective access to legal representation for indigent persons belonging to racial and ethnic minorities in civil proceedings, with particular regard to proceedings that have serious consequences for their security and stability, such evictions, foreclosures, discrimination in employment, domestic violence, loss of child custody, termination of
subsistence income or medical assistance, and deportation, including by allocating sufficient resources to the Legal Services Corporation.
NCCRC testified at the hearings about civil right to counsel.