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January 7, 2010

NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION RENEWS THE CALL TO SUPPORT CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES PROGRAMS

President Michael E. Getnick Pledges to Work with State and Federal Lawmakers to Ensure Access to Justice 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) today will reaffirm the State Bar's commitment to ensuring access to justice for indigent New Yorkers and pledge to work with the State Legislature, the Governor and other interested advocacy groups to develop creative solutions to fund the state's civil legal services programs.

Scheduled to testify this afternoon at a joint Senate and Assembly public hearing convened to focus on the Interest on Lawyers Account (IOLA) and the future of civil legal services, Getnick will emphasize the critical need to enhance access to the civil justice system for those unable to afford legal representation. The hearing - the third in a series of statewide hearings studying alternative ways to enhance IOLA revenues to fund civil legal services - will be held in Albany in Meeting Room 6 of the Empire State Plaza Concourse.

"Given the current economic circumstances, the cruel irony is that the significant drop in IOLA revenue has been compounded by an increased need for the civil legal services these funds support," Getnick will tell legislators. "These services help to protect those who are or about to become homeless, or have been denied other social service benefits to which they may be entitled."

In his testimony, Getnick will once again urge legislators to provide a stable and dedicated funding mechanism for civil legal services and will advocate for:

1. Creating a permanent Access to Justice Fund in the state budget;
2. Identifying a state-level agency to assume responsibility for administration and oversight of the Fund; and
3. Working with the legal community to ensure that access to justice receives support, attention and priority.

The establishment of a dedicated fund promoting access to justice to the civil justice system for the indigent has long been a top priority of the State Bar.

Recognizing the difficult financial situation the State is facing, Getnick will note that the State Bar is committed to assisting legislators in developing creative solutions to fund civil legal services for the needy, provided that they do not "limit a litigant's access to the justice system and impair a basic obligation of our society to all people."

Additionally, Getnick will call upon the State Legislature to approve the recently proposed $15-million appropriation to the judiciary budget that would help address the projected loss of IOLA revenues. Last September, Getnick wrote to Chief Administrative Judge Ann Pfau in support of this measure in order that "providers of civil legal services could continue to provide much needed legal assistance at a critical time for many needy New Yorkers."

"I pledge that I and the other leaders of the New York State Bar Association will do whatever we can to support you on this critically important issue and that we will continue to explore various sources of revenue that would not impair access to justice for the people of New York State," Getnick will conclude.

To view a full copy of President Getnick's testimony, please visit http://www.nysba.org/GetnickIOLATestimony
 
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.

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