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Councilmember McDuffie to Hold Public Roundtable on Civil Gideon and Expanding Access to Justice in the District of Columbia

For Immediate Release: June 21, 2016

Contact: Dionne Calhoun, 202-297-0152,

On Wednesday, June 22, Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Chairperson of the Committee on the Judiciary, will convene a public roundtable titled “Considering Civil Gideon: Expanding Access to Justice in the District of Columbia”. In 1963, the United States Supreme Court held in Gideon v. Wainwright that criminal defendants have a fundamental right to counsel at the government’s expense if they cannot afford one. The phrase “civil Gideon” refers to the national movement to expand this right to counsel to civil cases.

The need for civil representation in the District of Columbia is dire, particularly for low- and moderate-income residents. Recent reports have indicated that 98 percent of litigants in domestic violence cases in the D.C. Superior Court proceeded pro se, in addition to 77 percent of plaintiffs in divorce and custody cases, 98 percent in paternity and child support cases, and 97 percent in landlord/tenant court. The roundtable will include a robust discussion by subject matter experts on the best practices in other jurisdictions and will explore policy recommendations for the expansion of the right to civil counsel in the District of Columbia.

The distinguished panelists include Chief Judge Eric Washington of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals; Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation; Natalie Ludaway, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the District of Columbia; Danielle Holley-Walker, Dean of the Howard University School of Law; Jessica Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission; Judith Sandalow, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center; and Jonathan Smith, Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

The roundtable will be held in the Moot Court Room of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, located at 4340 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. All members of the public are welcome to attend, but those who wish to provide oral testimony will be offered the opportunity to do so at a later date.



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