CT-RTC is an example of the right to counsel movement, sometimes called “Civil Gideon.” Unlike in a criminal case, a person with a civil legal issue (like a tenant facing eviction) has no constitutional right to a lawyer if they cannot afford one. This is true even if the court case has high stakes, like a family’s potential loss of their housing. Laws and court processes are complex, and people experience better outcomes overall when they have legal representation, especially if the other side has a lawyer.
The right to counsel movement aims to expand the right to free legal representation in civil cases such as evictions, domestic violence, and child custody cases for those who cannot afford it, usually through the passage of state or local legislation. As of 2021, three states provide a right to counsel for tenants, as well as twelve cities. You can find out more about the right to counsel movement at www.civilrightocounsel.org.