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10 Geo. J. on Poverty L. & Pol'y 1 (2003)
Public Civil Defenders: A Right to Counsel for Indigent Civil Defendants

handle is hein.journals/geojpovlp10 and id is 7 raw text is: Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy
Volume X, Number 1, Winter 2003
Public Civil Defenders: A Right to Counsel For
Indigent Civil Defendants
Simran Bindra* & Pedram Ben-Cohen**
I think the best cross-examination I ever saw came from a criminal defendant
who had decided to represent himself I had the officer who arrested him on the
stand, and I had finished my direct examination. The defendant stood up,
looked at the jury, looked at the officer and in a loud voice asked the cop,
Where did you get to be such a good liar? Then he just sat down. The jury
just smiled, and I knew he had them. Of course, we still won the case.
- True Story from a Los Angeles City Attorney
We've all heard these types of anecdotes, whether while watching a show on
television or hearing the urban legends that emerge from the legal profession. It's
the story of the layman who is so much better in court than the lawyer, the
common woman who walks into the courtroom and makes the professional
attorney and his training and experience look like a jumble of wasted years.
Sadly, however, these stories really are just urban legends. Victory for the pro
se litigant is rare. Instead, [m]ost often, the rights of... indigent litigants simply
will not be enforced, despite romantic notions of pro se capacity and judicial
paternalism.' For each layperson sophisticated enough to approach the legal
system on his own, at least ten are unable to make heads or tails of it. Nor can
most afford an attorney to represent them. Studies have shown that in some civil
courts as many as ninety percent of the defendants were without counsel.2 Pro
* The author is an associate in the Los Angeles office of Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP; the
views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of such firm. The author
wishes to thank his mother, father, and sister, Reba, for their love and support throughout the years.
** Pedram Ben-Cohen is a third year law student at Georgetown University Law Center. He received
a B.S. in accounting, cum laude, from the University of Southern California in 2000. For another article
by Mr. Ben-Cohen see Pedram Ben-Cohen, The Real Estate Exception to the Passive Activity Rules in
Mowafi v. Commissioner and the New Burden Shifting Statute, 55 TAX. LAW. 961 (2002).
1. Michael Milleman, For: Mandatory Pro Bono in Civil Cases: A Partial Answer to the Right
Question, 49 MD. L. REv. 18, 27 (1990).
2. See Russell Engler, And Justice For All-Including the Unrepresented Poor: Revisiting the Roles of
the Judges, Mediators, and Clerks, 67 FORDHAM. L. REv. 1987, 2047 n.263 (1999).

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