The Human Rights Policy Seminar University of North Carolina School of Law 


For many years, the United States has received immense scrutiny concerning the extent to which it provides individuals access to meaningful legal representation. It is fairly clear that access to legal services in the United States is inadequate. In its present state, the majority of individuals who are unable to obtain counsel on their own are left without a fair chance at legal recourse in a wide array of legal proceedings. The consequences are many, but none as troubling as the effects on the basic human rights of individuals without access to quality legal representation.

This report argues that the current state of access to counsel in the United States fails to meet U.S. obligations under international and regional human rights norms. It is intended to aid advocates looking to international and regional human rights bodies, specifically the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for assistance in reforming the system in the United States and in pressuring the U.S. government to provide a universal right to meaningful access to legal representation.