State cases: About this list

Suggestions welcome for state cases

We invite suggestions for state cases — civil and criminal — that we may consider adding. Please send them to Alan Houseman at the Consortium. Ideally, lists are in electronic format and the Consortium would have the right to use the information freely. But we will consider lists in any form. Important: We are especially interested in curated lists of “Greatest Hits” rather than long lists of important cases that may not meet our criteria. (Due to limited resources, the Consortium started with federal cases cases, mostly from the US Supreme Court.)


Civil — We seek cases that: created new rights or preserved existing rights of the poor; improved the lives of the poor; or, substantially changed how public and private agencies and entities and courts dealt with the poor. These include cases that forced welfare and public housing agencies, schools, hospitals, private landlords, private businesses and other entities to act according to rules and laws and to treat the poor equitably and in a manner sensitive to their needs. These also include cases that addressed: domestic violence, predatory lending, wage confiscation or discrimination, denial of health care or health services, scams targeting the poor, or other practices harming the poor.

Public defender — We seek cases that enhanced the rights of indigent criminal defendants and augmented the power of public defenders to assist their clients.

About the selected cases on this website

A full list of important cases is beyond the current scope of this website. The purpose of this website is to highlight selected cases of interest while developing the methodology and technical aspects of the site with the Consortium’s limited resources. This case section is a work in progress, and the criteria below are evolving.

Selection criteria: Primary

  • Case aimed to improve the lives of poor people or marginalized groups
  • Case sought to create new rights or protected existing rights of the poor
  • Case is seminal and had enduring impact
  • The Consortium can easily obtain good, usable text summarizing aspects of the case

Selection criteria: Secondary

  • Legal aid/public defense lawyers played key role — But we include some where they did not.
  • Case was a win, not a draw or loss — But we include some important cases that were partial or major defeats though the cases were attempts to improve the lives of the poor.

Acknowledgements for sources of state cases

The Consortium uses its own criteria to select cases from various sources. See the Collections field on this website’s pages to learn at least some of our case sources. Some cases were obvious or were suggested by multiple sources. We did not include all cases suggested by any one source. The Consortium acknowledges with gratitude the following sources of cases to consider including:

New Jersey Legal Services “50 Years Advancing Justice” report, published in 2017 (61-page PDF). See the 24-page Milestones section.