PRESS RELEASE: With Final Vote for McDuffie’s “Expanding Access to Justice Act,” D.C. Takes Bold Step Toward Establishing Civil Right to Counsel

Final vote of Fiscal Year 2018 Budget includes program to fund lawyers for low-income tenants in D.C. Landlord & Tenant Court

Puts the District of Columbia on the path to establishing ‘Civil Gideon,’ the right to counsel in some civil cases

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Contact: Nolan Treadway, (202) 445-0361

Washington, D.C. – Today, the District of Columbia Council passed the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Support Act of 2017 which incorporates Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie’s “Expanding Access to Justice Act.” This legislation creates a grant program, managed by the DC Bar Foundation, to provide free legal counsel to low-income tenants at or below 200% of the federal poverty line facing eviction.

Upon Passage Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie Stated:

“I am encouraged that the Council today voted to take a bold step toward ‘Civil Gideon,’ by including the “Expanding Access to Justice” subtitle in the Fiscal year 2018 budget, which I first introduced last year as Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary.

This program is about keeping people in their homes and protecting District residents and families from unjust evictions.

It is my sincere hope that this program is just the first step in establishing a right to counsel for specific housing court cases in the District of Columbia. Just as the Supreme Court decided in Gideon v. Wainwright in 1963 that it was unconstitutional to allow a person to go without representation in a criminal trial, I believe the time has come to expand that right to civil matters which can also have a significant, wide-reaching impact on people’s lives.”