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April 13, 2010

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION REAFFIRMS OPPOSITION TO INCREASED COURT FEES TO FUND CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAMS

President Michael E. Getnick Urges Governor and State Legislators to Fund Essential Functions of New York's Courts and Provide Necessary Resources to Ensure Access to Justice for Indigent New Yorkers

The New York State Bar Association reaffirmed its existing position opposing any increase in court filing fees or any other fees that inhibit access to the court system; the Association's support for the proposed 2010-2011 Judiciary budget, including the provision of $15 million to support civil legal services; and the Association's support for a dedicated fund to support civil legal services.

"We strongly urge the Governor and the State Legislature not to impose any increase in fees that would inhibit access to justice," said President Michael E. Getnick (Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP of Utica and of counsel to Getnick & Getnick of New York City). "We call on both the Executive and Legislative branches to consult with the Judiciary to ensure that the fundamental principle of access to justice is protected, a goal that these two branches of government should share with the Judiciary.  

"Increasing court fees would further burden the court system and those who depend upon the system to resolve disputes and enforce the law," Getnick continued. "Linking fee increases to programs intended to serve the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society is the wrong approach for solving the serious fiscal problems that currently confront our state government."

Getnick also called on state legislators to approve of an appropriation included in the Judiciary's proposed budget that provides for a $15-million allocation to the Interest on Lawyers' Account (IOLA) Fund, and would offset declining IOLA revenue due to low interest rates on escrow accounts and reduced funds in these accounts due to a declining number of real estate transactions. These funds could be used to support civil legal services programs throughout the state.

Additionally, Getnick reiterated the State Bar's call for a stable and dedicated funding mechanism for civil legal services, including the creation of a permanent Access to Justice Fund in the state budget. The establishment of a dedicated fund has long been a top legislative priority of the State Bar.

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Founded in 1876, 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. The State Bar's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years. For more information, visit us at our Web site at www.nysba.org.