Congressman Joe Kennedy

Representing the 4th District of Massachusetts


Congressman Joe Kennedy working for Massachusetts constituents


May 30, 2017
Press Release
Studies show 80% of low income Americans have trouble obtaining civil legal representation

Washington, D.C. – In a letter to the United States Department of Justice, Congressman Joe Kennedy III (MA-04) and Congressman Trey Gowdy (SC-04) raised concerns about the lack of national data on our country’s civil justice system. Along with four of their colleagues, the lawmakers requested that the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics conduct a survey to collect nationally significant data concerning individuals who represent themselves in federal, state, local and tribal civil courts. Unlike criminal court, civil defendants are not guaranteed legal representation.

“Our nation’s failure to provide legal aid inside our civil courtrooms breaks our sacred promise of ‘Equal Justice Under Law,’” said Congressman Kennedy. “Through this inquiry, we can better understand the societal and economic impacts of the stubborn inequities within our civil justice system. With that knowledge, we can begin to confront those shortcomings and implement policies that protect rather than prosecute vulnerable Americans forced to defend their families and their homes without a lawyer by their side.”

“Whether you can afford to pay $1,000 per hour for your lawyer or you are acting as a pro se litigant, the law must apply the same to each and every individual,” said Congressman Gowdy. “This is why I joined with Rep. Kennedy to request the Department of Justice conduct a survey of pro se litigants in civil cases — a population of litigants who are often times forgotten.”

In their letter, the lawmakers requested further information comparing individuals with and without legal counsel based on the outcomes of civil cases such as housing disputes, veteran benefits, debt collection, family matters, protective orders, and any other deemed appropriate by the DOJ. To read the full letter, please click here.


For Immediate Release:
May 30, 2017
Emily Kaufman (617) 332-3333
Dan Black (202) 225-5931

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