The need for civil legal assistance is widespread. A 2018 survey commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that a third of U.S. households faced family, debt or housing problems that risked entangling them in the civil legal system; many cannot afford a lawyer. Some states and localities have stepped in to provide legal assistance for low-income people in such high-stakes cases. A handful of major cities have done so for tenants facing eviction, and similar legislation is under consideration in the Maryland legislature. But the hodgepodge of policies and laws is a far cry from a safety net.
The Biden administration could advance the cause of justice through a concerted, high-profile push to make legal advice and aid more widely available to those who cannot secure it on their own. That would be a critical step toward repairing the widening chasm between haves and have-nots in America.
Everyone deserves legal aid and advice.