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December 16, 2010

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION OPPOSES U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE'S EFFORTS TO UNDERCUT CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES

Urges Congress Instead to Enact Increased Funding for the Legal Services Corporation and to Lift Burdensome Restrictions on Funds to Help the Poor

New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP) today issued a statement in opposition to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's recent efforts to undercut civil legal services by asking the U.S. Senate to maintain current federal restrictions on the use of civil legal services funds provided by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The Chamber's efforts were made as the U.S. Senate prepares to consider the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, an act funding and supporting the main functions of the federal government.

"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's recent attack on the Legal Service Corporation is very troubling because it undoubtedly is aimed at harming the most needy and vulnerable people in the United States," said Younger.  "Provisions of H.R. 3082, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, would provide much-needed funding for civil legal services and lift unreasonable restrictions on the use of funds by legal services organizations, including many service providers in New York State.

"Funding for such programs provides assistance to those who are most vulnerable and in need of legal assistance," Younger continued. "The mortgage foreclosure crisis and associated predatory lending is only the most recent example of a situation where low-income families are those who suffer the most. Allowing legal services providers funded by LSC to initiate class action lawsuits is a cost-effective way to remedy wrongs committed against a large number of victims who have lost their homes due to the unlawful activities of banks and mortgage companies. The restriction against class action lawsuits was unfair when it was initiated in 1996, and it is even more unfair today.

"The New York State Bar Association rejects the Chamber's position on this issue and we urge the Congress to enact increased funding for LSC and to eliminate unfair and unnecessary restrictions on funds that are intended to help the poor."

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The 77,000-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.  Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years. www.nysba.org.