State-paid divorce lawyers not a right: Court rules such cases are private, civil disputes, Seattle P-I, Dec. 6, 2007.
People who can't afford a lawyer to help them navigate divorce proceedings and fight for the custody of their children don't have the right to one at public expense, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.The president of the Washington State Bar Association issued a statement:
A 7-2 majority found that divorces are private, civil disputes that don't call for state-paid attorneys unless state lawmakers decide to change the law.
The controversial case drew much attention as one that could have expanded much-need legal services for poor people but also cost taxpayers a hefty sum.
This case highlights the need to greatly expand access to civil legal services in Washington, particularly when basic human needs are at stake such as in child custody disputes. Every day, people around the state appear in court without legal representation. And they often do so by necessity, rather than choice. Those individuals are also often unable to effectively present their cases in a court. Access to the justice system is a fundamental right, and no person should be denied access simply because they are poor. The WSBA will continue to work with the Legislature to expand access to our court system in Washington.Legal Representation for Low-Income People Remains a Challenge, WSBA press release, Dec. 6, 2007.
The case is In re King, --- Wn. 2d ---, Washington Courts: majority (C. Johnson, J.), concurrence (Sanders, J.), concurrence (Madsen, J.) (Dec. 6, 2007).