You know how on TV, when someone gets arrested, the police tell them: “You have the right to an attorney, and if you can’t afford one, one will be provided for you."
Well, that right to an attorney applies only if the person is facing criminal changes. If you’re in eviction court -- which is civil -- there's no free lawyer.
The San Francisco Bar Association’s Gloria Chun says that’s not fair, because civil court cases can be just as life-altering as jail or prison time.
"When basic human needs like housing and child custody are at issue, it should not be an issue of whether or not you have the money to pay a private lawyer for one," says Chun, who directs the Bar's pro-bono legal services.
Chun's organization -- the Bar Association's Justice and Diversity Center -- helped more than 600 San Franciscans facing eviction last year. But that’s less than half of the 1,355 who received eviction notices. Typically, only about 10 percent of tenants have lawyers, and more than half of landlords do.