SACRAMENTO, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Low-income Californians will be entitled to free legal representation in eviction, foreclosure and other civil cases under a law set to take effect next year.
The Civil Gideon Law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this month, will establish a pilot program providing free counsel in an array of civil matters, Legal Newsline reported Tuesday. The program is scheduled to begin July 1, 2010, and end in July 2017.
The cost of administering the law, which will provide legal counsel for family matters including child custody disputes and cases of neglect, is estimated at $11 million annually. It will be funded by a $10 increase in court fees for prevailing parties, Legal Newsline said.
The law, sponsored by California Assemblyman Mike Feuer, derives its name from a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Gideon vs. Wainwright, which established the constitutional right of indigent criminal defendants to an attorney. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1981 there is not a constitutional right to counsel in civil cases.
Public interest law groups selected by the Judicial Council of California, which administers the state's court system, will provide counsel for Californians who qualify under the program.