Contact: Andrew Rush
Director, Media Services & Public Affairs
February 7, 2008
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION CALLS FOR AN INCREASE IN FUNDING FOR
LEGAL SERVICES FOR THE POOR
Budget Testimony Calls for Raising Judicial Pay, Restoration of Cuts to Civil Legal Services & Reform of Long Term Care Financing
Increased funding for civil legal services for the poor, the adoption of a judicial salary increase and a commission to regularly review judicial pay, and reforming the way long term care is financed were key aspects of testimony submitted today by the New York State Bar Association on the 2008-2009 Executive Budget. The testimony, submitted by State Bar Association President Kathryn Grant Madigan (Levene, Gouldin & Thompson LLP) to a joint Senate-Assembly committee discussed a wide array of initiatives included in the proposed judiciary budget, but focused on the need to provided additional vital resources for legal services to those who can not afford them.
"Access to justice has been, and will always be, one of this association's key legislative priorities," Madigan said, "Important steps were taken last year to increase funding for civil legal services but unfortunately the Executive Budget that was submitted a few weeks ago takes steps in the wrong direction, eliminating funding for those who can least afford it. We need to continue to take steps to ensure that impoverished New Yorkers can access our legal system and protect their rights. We urge the Governor and Legislature to commit additional funds, make access to justice a reality for more New Yorkers, and bolster the public's trust and confidence in our justice system.
Madigan noted that a recent study from the Equal Justice Commission emphasized that the essential legal needs of more than 85% of low income New Yorkers are not being met under the current funding levels. Madigan praised Governor Spitzer for his work last year in increasing funding for these programs and for his commitment to access to justice, but urged the Legislature and Governor not only to restore the proposed cuts, but increase funding to $25 million for these programs, with the goal of $50 million in annual funding by the year 2010.
Madigan's testimony also discussed the need for a long overdue judicial salary increase and the need to institute a commission to regularly review salaries; urged reform of the way New York finances long term care and adoption of the association's proposed Compact for Long Term Care; advocated for an independent Indigent Defense Commission; and supported the proposed funding for the State's Town and Village Courts.
A complete copy of the testimony is available on the President's Page of the association's web site at http://www.nysba.org.
The 74,000 member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New Yorkand the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.