Update (April 6, 2016): This post is a correction of sorts of the original post, below. It turns out that the premise of the story below — that Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt may have been given a lawyer’s services for free or for less than the lawyer’s normal rate to help him with his debt problems — was apparently not substantiated by any evidence beyond speculation. That does not mean that the allegations are wrong, of course. It just means the complainant did not have the goods to prove it, which is very often a problem for sound and unsound allegations, both…
Original post (March 11, 2016) (under headline:Is a Free Lawyer a Gift? A Right? A Campaign Finance Crime?): I get calls from potential clients from time to time asking for help dealing with a lawsuit against them for debts they owe. These are difficult situations because I work for a living, for pay, for money, and someone who is sued for non-payment of debt often does not have the money to hire me. Often I would like to help but I cannot.
When Republican Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt got sued recently for unpaid debts, he did not have to worry about paying for a lawyer, apparently. It seems he might have gotten one for free. (See linked campaign finanance complaints brought against Mr. Daudt and attorney Ron Labeau II by attorney Adam Strauss of Tarshish Cody.)
For many years there have been advocates for “civil Gideon,” that is, some kind of system similar to the right to public defenders in criminal cases for the poor, but for civil cases. A 1994 American Bar Association Study found that nearly 80% civil legal needs for low-income families were not being met. I am frankly surprised the percentage is not considerably higher than 80%. The courthouse doors in civil matters are shut pretty tight for most Americans.
I wonder whether Speaker Daudt’s recent experiences have sensitized him to the experience of ordinary Americans and how helpless they are when they are sued and cannot afford a lawyer. I wonder if he might see some merit in civil Gideon. Daudt it.