Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs
February 9, 2011
STATE BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR ACCESS TO
Funding civil legal services called a top
The state Judiciary must be adequately funded to ensure
courthouse doors are open to all New Yorkers, including "the poor, the
weak and the vulnerable," New York State Bar Association President
Stephen P. Younger testified today.
Appearing at a budget hearing in Albany, Younger told state legislators,
"The ability of an impoverished or unpopular individual to invoke the
power of the world's most prestigious legal system to protect his or her
rights is, and should continue to be, a source of great pride and great
strength for all New Yorkers."
In calling for funding for civil legal services, Younger praised Chief
Judge Jonathan Lippman for proposing a $15 million appropriation to
offset declining revenues from the Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA)
Fund, which provides grants to legal service providers representing the
poor. IOLA is funded with interest on client escrow accounts held by
lawyers. Declining interest rates and real estate transactions have
severely undercut its revenues.
The State Bar Association supports the Judiciary's request for $25
million to fund lawyers to represent low-income New Yorkers fight
apartment evictions or home foreclosures, secure child support or health
insurance as well to provide other "essentials of life".
"At a time when some members of Congress are calling for the elimination
of the Legal Services Corporation, the need for responsible action in
New York State is all the more critical," Younger said.
Last year, the Legislature approved creation of an Office of Indigent
Legal Services to oversee county-based criminal defense services for
low-income defendants. The State Bar Association commends Governor
Andrew Cuomo for maintaining the $3 million annual appropriation.
However, it is concerned that the governor seeks to eliminate state
funding for Prisoners Legal Services (PLS) .
"One of the greatest values of PLS is that it works to avoid conditions
of confinement that resulted in the devastating Attica riot," Younger
The New York State Bar Association with 77,000 members is the largest
voluntary state bar association in the nation. Its programs and
activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice
system for 135 years.