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CT Task Force Recommends Greater Access to Legal Assistance

A new report says Connecticut residents' lack of access to civil legal assistance ends up costing taxpayers millions of dollars. (Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons)
A new report says Connecticut residents' lack of access to civil legal assistance ends up costing taxpayers millions of dollars. (Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons)
January 4, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. – A state task force of judges, attorneys, law enforcement and educators has said a person's access to an attorney in some civil court proceedings should be a right.

A new report from the Task Force to Improve Access to Legal Counsel in Civil Matters found that many Connecticut residents can't afford a lawyer to help them protect their essential needs.

According to Dan Barrett, legal director for the ACLU of Connecticut, the report said giving low-income residents legal aid in some civil matters would serve the best interests of those citizens and of the state.

"A lot of what the committee has proposed will, in some way, lessen the overcrowding in the Superior Courts and lessen the workload on the Superior Judges," he said.

The report recommends making access to legal counsel a statutory right for cases involving restraining orders, child custody and residential evictions.

Last year, the state cut funding for the court system, and lawmakers still face a $1.5 billion state deficit over the next two years. But Barrett pointed out that providing legal counsel in eviction proceedings, for example, would help more people stay in their homes.

"That, in turn, would reduce the need for temporary shelter and all of the other sort of knock-on effects that occur when a person loses the roof over her head," he added.

The report contains a series of recommendations for funding expanded legal services and a multi-year strategy for implementation.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT