January 29, 2009

TOURO LAW CENTER AND NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION PARTNER IN FIGHT FOR CIVIL GIDEON

Expanding Right to Counsel in Civil Cases for Indigent New Yorkers Is Focus of Touro's 25th Anniversary Law Review

Citing the committed leadership of the New York State Bar Association in advocating for a right to counsel in civil cases - known as Civil Gideon - the Touro Law Review will devote its entire 25th Anniversary issue to a discussion of this critical topic, exploring a wide variety of viewpoints and strategies on how to improve access for all to New York's civil justice system.

The January issue of the Law Review, published in partnership with the State Bar, is titled "An Obvious Truth: Creating an Action Blueprint for a Civil Right to Counsel in New York State" and stems from a conference by the same title held at the Touro's Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in March 2008 and co-sponsored by the State Bar. The Law Review will be first available on January 29 at the Justice for All Luncheon at the State Bar Annual Meeting week at the Marriot Marquis Hotel.

"At a time when New York's unemployment continues to rise, foreclosures continue to surge and access to competent legal representation is financially out-of-reach for more and more New Yorkers, Civil Gideon issues are more relevant today than at any recent time in memory," said Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP), President of the State Bar Association. "Legal service budget cuts in Albanycombined with the declining interest rates for the Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA) have decimated funding for legal service providers who seek to serve indigent New Yorkers. We must re-double our efforts to maintain and expand adequate funding so every New Yorker can have counsel when they seek justice in critical areas such as housing, sustenance, safety and child custody. If we believe in 'justice for all,' we can do nothing less."

Lawrence Raful, Dean and Professor of Law, Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, said, "I applaud President Leber and the State Bar Association for their continuing leadership role on this issue. Jacob D. Fuchsberg, for whom our Law Centeris named, was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to the committee responsible for creating the first national program that funded civil legal aid for the poor. It is only fitting that our law school continue that path of advocacy begun by our namesake - a proud Bar Association member - over 45 years ago. As an institution devoted to teaching how men and women can effectively protect the legal rights of every New Yorker, I am pleased we are using this 25th Anniversary issue of the Law Review to promote the expansion of those protections through Civil Gideon."

The Law Review contains articles from President Leber, Past President Kathryn Grant Madigan and a report of the State Bar Association titled "Toward a Right of Counsel in Civil Cases in New York State." The report looks at current New Yorkcivil representation rights and where those rights can expand. Other issues of note in the Review include:

  • In 2005, the Office of Court Administration estimated that 73 percent of litigants in New York City Family Court and 93 percent in Housing Courtappeared without an attorney in issues involving evictions, domestic violence, child custody, guardianship, visitation, support and paternity.
  • According to the New York City Department of Social Services, every dollar spent on legal representation for the poor in eviction cases saves four dollars in homelessness expenditures.
  • Every year, more than 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income New Yorkers go unmet.

According to Touro and the State Bar, in order to further the discussion of Civil Gideon issues, the Law Review edition will be given to all 50 state bar associations, all the major bar associations in New York, the New York State legislature, the Office of Court Administration, judges, deans of all ABA-approved schools and members of the New York civil legal services community.

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The 76,000 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, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.