October 19, 2009
STATE BAR ASSOCIATION URGES NEW YORK LEGISLATURE TO REJECT CUTS TO CIVIL LEGAL SERVICE FUNDING FOR LOW-INCOME NEW YORKERS
New York State Bar Association President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City) strongly urged New York State legislative leaders to reject a proposal by Governor Paterson that would cut hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid for civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers.
In a letter to the legislators, Getnick noted that the downturn in the economy has already had a damaging impact on Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA), the stream of revenue for civil legal services. He urged that there be no further cuts because a "cut to the funding for civil legal services would be catastrophic for low-income New Yorkers."
Getnick wrote, "When basic human needs are at risk - those involving shelter, sustenance, safety, health or child custody - representation by counsel is essential. The promise of equal justice for all must extend to every citizen. The societal benefits of extending this promise to every citizen are clear. For example, past reports have demonstrated that every dollar spent on indigent representation in eviction proceedings saves four dollars in costs related to homelessness.
"The issue of funding civil legal services remains a top legislative priority of the State Bar. It is especially important in these difficult economic times that the State create a permanent, reliable source of funds for civil legal services. Additionally, we urge ending the current patch-work approach to the administration of funding by creating a single office within the Executive Branch to efficiently administer the permanent fund," the letter concluded.
To view the letter sent to legislative leaders, please visit www.nysba.org/october19lettertolegislativeleaders.
Founded in 1876, the 76,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.