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Access to Justice in North Carolina Conference

by UNC Law School

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Access to Justice in North Carolina: A Right to Counsel in Civil Cases Is a system of justice that accepts the exclusion of millions of Americans the best that we can do? That's the question at the heart of this free half-day conference held at the UNC School of Law on October 30. The legal needs of low and modest-income North Carolinians is vast. One in five people inn the state earn less than 125% of the poverty line. According to a report released last year by North Carolina's Equal Access to Justice Commission, while the state has one lawyer for every 442 people, the ratio for legal aid attorneys to poor people is one to 15,500--well below the national average. Unlike criminal cases, where poor defendants are appointed an attorney, there is no constitutional right to counsel in civil cases. The alternatives for someone facing the legal system without counsel are stark: go it alone or forgo legal claims, sometimes with dire consequences. A place to live, unemployment or disability benefits, parental rights, necessary medical treatments, protection from domestic violence, safeguards against predatory lending--these can all vanish without the guidance of an attorney. North Carolina has taken significant steps to address this issue, but more must be done. This conference examined homegrown solutions, as well as initiatives from across the country, in order to build on the national momentum to expand access to counsel in civil cases. Participants included leading lights from the state judiciary, the bar association and state bar and legal services.  Please click on the Tab labeled "PDFs" to view bios of the participants, the full conference agenda, and a list of resources. Visit the Center Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity website at