The Interdependence of Rights:: Protecting the Human Right to Housing by Promoting the Right to Counsel

Risa E. Kaufman
Martha F. Davis
Heidi M. Wegleiter

Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, p. 772-815 (2014)


This Article trains the lens of international human rights to explicate the relationship between the right to counsel in civil cases and a right to housing. A strength of the human rights framework is its recognition of the interrelationship of rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. Just as the right to housing is a lynchpin to the realization of other rights, so, too, is the right to counsel. This article first sets forth the international human rights framework for understanding the U.S.'s obligation to provide a civil right to counsel when basic human needs, including housing, are at stake. It then offers client stories from a legal services organization in Wisconsin, alongside quantitative research, as a way to better understand the impact that legal counsel has on individuals' ability to secure and protect their housing, and, finally, discusses the implications of advocacy efforts to link a housing rights strategy to efforts to secure the civil right to counsel.