“The proposed Judiciary budget enhances public access to New York’s court system,” New York State Bar Association President Glenn Lau-Kee said today.
The Judiciary submitted its spending plan for the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2015 to the Legislature and Governor Cuomo on December 1. If approved, the budget would:
• Provide $70 million—including an increase of $15 million—for civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford to hire an attorney.
• Adequately staff courthouses to ensure that they remain open until 5 p.m. During leaner budget years, the Office of Court Administration imposed 4:30 p.m. closing times, inconveniencing the public and forcing the interruption of ongoing trials.
• Ensure a full-year of funding for 20 new Family Court judges, who take office January 1, and an initial three months of funding for five judges, who will assume office in 2016. The 25 new judgeships were approved by the Legislature in 2014.
“We are pleased that the Judiciary budget addresses these important priorities of the State Bar,” said Lau-Kee of New York City (Kee & Lau-Kee).
With regard to the budget, Lau-Kee said that the State Bar Association will be proposing a $5 million capital expenditure to create a Civil Legal Service Center in Albany. Much like the Telesca Center for Justice in Rochester, it would bring the region’s civil legal service providers under one roof, at a central location easily accessible to clients, especially for those using public transportation.
“By housing multiple services in one building, clients in need of legal assistance can more easily find the organization that can best serve their needs. In addition, co-location allows the organizations to save money by sharing resources,” Lau-Kee said.
The building, located near the Court of Appeals, also could serve as a resource center for legal services attorneys across New York, offering a moot courtroom where they could prepare to argue cases before the state’s highest court.
State funding of $5 million would allow for the purchase or development of real property that would become the permanent base of operation for the center. Lau-Kee proposes tapping the state’s projected multi-billion dollar budget surplus to cover the capital costs.
The 75,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
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