Gary R. Matano


The marriage institution is the basic unit in the anatomical composition of American society as it exists today. The right to marry and the right to divorce when marriage fails have long been held in the highest esteem by our nation's courts. But some citizens of the State of New York are judicially denied the right to terminate their marriages because they are indigents. The court has denied indigents their requested assignments of counsel when the assistance of counsel was unquestionably necessary for prospective matrimonial litigants. The first problem posed by that holding is that it operates as a virtual denial of counsel to indigent matrimonial litigants. Moreover, regardless of whether the assignment of counsel is mandatory or discretionary, some provision for compensating such counsel is required if there is to be a viable system of providing representation for the indigent matrimonial litigant in new York. As a result, indigent matrimonial litigant are being denied meaningful access to the courts and the Court should declare a constitutional right to counsel in matrimonial litigation.