LOS ANGELES (KABC) — Attendees at a town hall called on the city and county of Los Angeles to join other cities in guaranteeing a lawyer to those facing eviction.
Tens of thousands of Californians who otherwise would have been at grave risk of losing their homes, their children, their ability to pursue a living or other basic human rights and needs at least had a fighting chance to defend themselves in court because of landmark 2009 legislation that gave them access to lawyers.
Here’s one way to help ease Los Angeles’ homeless crisis: Give poor, vulnerable tenants lawyers to help them fight unjust evictions. Why? Because it’s often easier, cheaper and more humane to help people stay in their homes than it is to get them back on their feet after they have become homeless.
No person in the United States can be put on trial for their life or liberty, or indeed any criminal penalty down to the smallest traffic fine, without access to a lawyer to provide expert assistance. That principle was established by the 6th Amendment in 1789, although the actual right to counsel remained spotty until Clarence Earl Gideon’s case famously went to the Supreme Court in 1963. The Gideon ruling established that any criminal defendant in any court had a right to an appointed lawyer if they couldn’t afford one themselves.