Recognizing that many individuals cannot afford to appeal court decisions involving critical legal matters, the New York State Bar Association is expanding its successful pilot program to provide pro bono legal assistance in select civil cases in New York's Third Judicial Department.
The Pro Bono Appeals Program is available to individuals who had lost civil (non-criminal) cases and lack the financial means to appeal the decision, as well as to persons who won in the trial court but must respond to an appeal by the opposing party. The program expands upon a year-old pilot program for Family Court and matrimonial appeals. In addition, the program now covers appeals involving education, health, housing, and public benefits.
"New Yorkers shouldn't be denied representation on appeal solely because they lack the means to pay. The State Bar Association is proud to be a national leader in providing pro bono legal assistance for appellate cases," said Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo, LLP).
Cynthia F. Feathers (Cynthia Feathers, Attorney At Law), co-chair of the Bar Association's Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction, said appeals can cost tens of thousands of dollars and persons of modest means often cannot afford an appellate lawyer.
Feathers, of Glens Falls, said appellate court decisions may set precedents, and, therefore can have far-reaching impacts beyond a single case.
"We're happy to help one person, but this program has the potential to help many people with one appeal," Feathers said.
Cases are screened by a seven-member subcommittee, which will select a limited number of cases for appeals. Income eligibility is based on a cap of 250 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. For example, the income limit for a family of three would be $46,325.
Collaborating with the Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction in offering the program are the Legal Project in Albany and the Rural Law Center of New York in Plattsburgh. These nonprofit organizations are providing staff support and pro bono expertise. The program is supported by a grant from the New York Bar Foundation.
For the next year, cases will be limited to appeals to the Appellate Division, Third Department, which covers 28 counties: Albany, Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Clinton, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Madison, Montgomery, Otsego, Rensselaer, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Warren and Washington. Organizers hope to expand the program to other Appellate Divisions in the future.
For brochures and applications, visit the committee's website at www.nysba.org/ccaj.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest state voluntary bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
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