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February 22, 2010

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT RENEWS CALL TO SUPPORT NEW YORK'S JUDICIARY

Letter to State Legislators Urges Support of the Judiciary's Budget Proposal and Opposition to Increased Court Fees that Inhibit Access to Justice

Urges State Bar Association Members to Contact State Lawmakers and Make Their Voices Heard on Issues of Importance to the Legal Profession

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) today renewed the State Bar's support of New York's Judiciary Budget. In a letter to state legislators, Getnick urged lawmakers to support the proposed Judiciary Budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year and to oppose the Executive's budget proposal to increase court fees that place an undue burden on citizens seeking access to justice through the court system.

"An independent, well-functioning judicial system, accessible to all, is a bedrock principle of our democracy," Getnick wrote to legislators. "As the State of New York now faces the challenges and limitations presented by a slow economy, we must ensure that adequate resources are provided so that the courts can meet their essential role. Budget cuts could result in the closing of courtrooms throughout the state. Therefore, it is critically important that the Legislature approve the proposed Judiciary Budget for 2010-11."

Getnick noted that with the court system's annual caseload at an all-time high, and the economic downturn likely to bring additional cases to the courts, if the Judiciary does not receive the funding it has requested, it may be compelled to reduce its workforce, potentially through layoffs. "This would jeopardize the fair and swift administration of justice," Getnick wrote.
 
Getnick also called on state legislators to reject the Executive Budget proposal to increase court fees to offset recent declines in interest earnings as a source of funds for civil legal services. The Executive Budget would increase the portion of the index number fee in Supreme Court paid to the State, increase fees for motions and cross-motions in Supreme and appellate courts, and increase the "first-paper fee" in several lower courts.

According to Getnick, this proposal would further burden the court system and those who depend upon the system to resolve disputes and enforce the law. Furthermore, the proposal presents a barrier to the goal of access to justice, which is a goal shared by all three branches of our State Government.

"Although we believe that the Governor recognizes the need to ensure access to justice for those of limited means, and has in the past supported programs that help the indigent, the proposed Executive Budget inappropriately links funding for such programs to increased fees imposed on those who use the courts to enforce their rights under the law," Getnick explained. "Linking those fee increases to programs intended to serve the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society would be the wrong approach to solving the serious fiscal problem that confronts our state government. Therefore, we urge you to oppose the Executive Budget proposal to increase court fees."

Finally, Getnick sent an email message to members of the State Bar Association, calling on them to add their voices to this year's budget debate by urging their state legislators to take appropriate action on issues of critical importance to all New Yorkers. The Association has a Legislative Action Center feature on its Web site that members can use to convey their opinions to their legislators.

To view a full copy of President Getnick's letter to state legislators, please visit www.nysba.org/judiciarybudgetletter.

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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.