State Bar President Mark H. Alcott Submits Testimony in Support of Governor Spitzer's Budget Proposal
Calls for the Adoption of New Funding for Judicial Salary Increases and Civil Legal Services
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February 15, 2007
Two topics on the New York State Bar Association’s short list of legislative priorities, a judicial salary increase and additional funding for civil legal services for the poor, are included in Governor Spitzer’s Executive Budget and should be adopted by the Legislature, according to testimony submitted today by State Bar President Mark H. Alcott (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP).
Mr. Alcott, in testimony submitted at a joint Senate-Assembly hearing on the 2007-2008 Executive Budget, talked about a wide array of initiatives included in the proposed judiciary budget, but focused on two main areas, the adoption of a judicial pay raise and increased, permanent funding for civil legal services for the poor.
Mr. Alcott noted that the salaries of New York judges were last adjusted in 1999, and since that time have been eroded by more than 20 percent due to inflation. Alcott applauded the Governor for recognizing this fact, saying, “We applaud Governor Eliot Spitzer for recognizing this problem and including in his Executive Budget crucial funding to provide judges with the long overdue pay raise they deserve. In doing so, the Governor has clearly demonstrated that he shares the New York State Bar Association’s strong belief that the quality of justice and of our legal system depends on the quality of our judiciary, and that, in turn, requires fair compensation for the Judiciary.”
In addition to approval of a salary increase, Alcott called for the establishment of a mechanism for future salary adjustments that would allow salaries of justices in state courts to keep pace with those of federal judges. Mr. Alcott also cited the fact that more than 85 percent of civil legal services needs for the poor go unmet, and stated that the Governor’s budget, which includes more than $9 million in funding for civil legal services, represents significant progress in this area.
“Governor Spitzer’s action sends a positive message that civil legal services programs will have a home and a partner in the Executive Branch,” Alcott said. “While extensive pro bono efforts of New York lawyers help provide needed representation, adequate funding from the state government is necessary to ensure meaningful access to the justice system for those people who are at the lowest economic strata of our society. Adoption of the Governor’s proposal would be a step in the right direction to meet this significant unmet need.”
A complete copy of the Mr. Alcott’s testimony is available on the President’s Page of the association’s web site at http://www.nysba.org
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