Hugh Thompson, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice, says the state needs to do more to help those who cannot afford an attorney.
In his State of the Judiciary address Tuesday, Thompson said Georgia’s judicial system is strong for those who can afford a lawyer, but limited for low income Georgians.
“Most of us grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance at school, in which we promised ‘liberty and justice for all.’ I don’t believe we ever meant, ‘liberty and justice only for those who can afford it,” said Thompson.
During his address, he cited information from the Supreme Court’s Committee on Civil Justice, saying in 2008, only nine percent of low-income Georgians with a legal need were able to get help from a lawyer.
Thompson says 62 Georgia counties have 10 or fewer lawyers, and six of the state’s counties have no lawyers at all.
He says the lack of adequate legal services is leading more people to represent themselves in court, and the reality is that poor people who represent themselves often lose.
“Georgia’s judicial system is sound and it is strong- for those who can afford a lawyer. But to safeguard its future, we must guarantee access to justice for all people as our laws were not made for just a few,” said Thompson.
Contributors: Shauna Stuart