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Empire Justice Testimony: 2016 NYS Joint Budget Hearing on Public Protection

February 4, 2016


In today’s testimony, we recommend:

  • Full Legislative support for the proposed Judiciary budget, including proposed funding for civil legal services and funding for the Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA) fund; and
  • Distribution of the Legal Services Assistance Fund including legal services for victims of domestic violence according to last year’s schedule in order to maintain current grant levels and provide programmatic stability throughout the state.

The Continuing Need for Civil Legal Services

In the best of times, across the country and here in New York State, we have barely met 20% of the civil legal needs of the poor.  In an effort to assess the ongoing unmet need for civil legal services among low income New Yorkers, in early 2010 Chief Judge Jonathan Lippmann appointed the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York.  I am honored to be a member of what is now the Permanent Commission on Access to Justice. 

The Commission has assisted in preparing for the public hearings held each fall in each of the four judicial departments.  Leaders of the New York State Bar Association join the Chief Judge and other leaders of the Judiciary in presiding over these hearings.  The results of the hearings and specific recommendations for improving access to justice are then included in an annual report to the Chief Judge.

When this work started in 2010, the Office of Court Administration (OCA) indicated that in 2009 an estimated 2.3 million New York residents went into civil courts in New York State without a lawyer.  Seventy percent of these civil matters dealt with the core issues of family, consumer credit and housing. These are not simple matters.  They touch on the “essentials of life” – the roof over one’s head and the health, safety and economic security of one’s family.

Indeed at that time the Task Force found that:

  • 99% of tenants in New York City and 98% of those outside New York City were unrepresented in eviction proceedings.
  • 97% of parents are unrepresented in child support proceedings in New York City; 95% of parents in child support proceedings throughout the rest of the state face these proceedings without representation.
  • 99% of consumers facing credit problems and debt collection cases were unrepresented in New York City.

CLICK HERE to read the entire 2016 Public Protection Testimony.

For more information, please contact:

Anne Erickson

Empire Justice Center
119 Washington Avenue
Albany, NY  12210 

(518) 462-6831
(518) 935-2852