Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs
518/487-5530
lbang-jensen@nysba.org

February 15, 2011

STATE BAR PRESIDENT SAYS ECONOMY STRAINS COURT SYSTEM

Association supports Chief Judge Lippman on Judiciary funding

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman today offered a compelling case for adequate funding of the state Judiciary, especially as court dockets surge in a faltering economy, said New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger.

Reacting to Lippman's State of the Judiciary message, Younger noted, "The sharp increase in court filings-many triggered by the recession-has strained court resources. The Judiciary cannot turn away litigants who are entitled to their day in court. The Office of Court Administration has performed admirably in shouldering heavier caseloads with limited resources."

Younger [Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP] praised the Chief Judge for seeking an additional $25 million appropriation to provide attorneys for low-income New Yorkers facing apartment evictions, child support issues, domestic violence and other civil legal matters.

He commended Lippman for naming William J. Leahy as the first director of the state Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS), noting Leahy's distinguished career as chief counsel to the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services. Younger asked the Legislature to approve Governor Andrew Cuomo's request for $3 million to maintain ILS in the coming year.

Lippman unveiled a pilot program to provide legal services to homeowners fighting foreclosures in Queens and Orange counties. "We are pleased with the Chief Judge's pilot program and his plans to later expand this innovative program statewide. Nearly two-thirds of homeowners facing foreclosure are not represented by attorneys at their settlement conferences," Younger said.

"We commend the Chief Judge Lippman for his dedication and work in the area of wrongful convictions," Younger said. "The State Bar Association too has examined the causes of wrongful convictions and has drafted a package of legislation that, if enacted, would eliminate some of the common causes of wrongful convictions," Younger said.

The Association's legislation addresses the following areas: establishing a procedure for law enforcement to follow when conducting eyewitness identifications; vacating a conviction based on the discovery of new DNA evidence; monetary remedies for those wrongfully convicted; evidentiary treatment of informant testimony; mandating the electronic recording of custodial interrogations; and the treatment of exculpatory material by the government." Younger called on the Legislature to enact the State Bar's legislation and to expand defendants' rights to DNA.

Noting that judges last received salary increases 13 years ago, Younger commended Lippman's two appointments to the judicial compensation taskforce: Robert Fiske, Jr. [Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP], a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Kathryn S. Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City.

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.