Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Public Policy Analysis

Second Department


Reader 1

Richard Worthington

Reader 2

Shlomi Sher

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© 2014 Kelsey Atkinson


The United States is among one of the only democratic industrialized nations in the world that does not provide guaranteed access to civil representation in cases involving basic human need. This leaves indigent litigants who are at risk of losing their homes or their children left to seek counsel through insufficient pro-bono programs or limited scope legal self-help centers. This thesis provides a history of the struggle for the right to civil counsel, known as Civil Gideon, and explores a variety of proposed solutions to bridge the justice gap for indigent litigants. Despite considerable support for Civil Gideon among scholars and the legal community, the public is unaware of the justice gap- about 80% of Americans assume the right to civil counsel already exists. This thesis conducted two studies to understand possible reasons for this gap between public knowledge and reality and to identify the possibility of manipulating public knowledge through exposure to injustices. The findings from these studies are used to inform a network approach to shape public support for Civil Gideon so that the US court system can truly represent opportunity and equality for all citizens.