David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
Date: September 11, 2001
|Chief Judge Targets Shortfall
of Civil Legal Services for New York's Poor
|ALBANY - At a judicial summit on increasing access to the
legal system held in Albany today, Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye will announce
the creation of the New York State Access to Justice Center, designed to
address the shortfall of civil legal services available to low-income New
Yorkers. The Access to Justice Center will be charged with removing barriers
to legal representation for the poor and generating new ideas for civil
legal services, including developing permanent funding sources, increasing
services for self-represented litigants and promoting the use of alternative
dispute resolution. It will be the first court-sponsored entity of its
kind in the nation to fostering civil legal services for low-income litigants
and to developing public-private partnerships that support the delivery
of such services.
Chief Judge Kaye said, "For a family seeking protection from eviction, for an elderly person confused by the social services bureaucracy or for a battered woman fleeing domestic violence, having access to adequate legal services can be critical to their safety and well-being. Yet only a small percentage of impoverished New Yorkers - perhaps 15% - stand a reasonable chance of getting a lawyer when they desperately need one. The Access to Justice Center will serve as the central vehicle for securing long-term funding sources for civil legal services for New Yorkers who need but cannot afford such services. I am grateful to our partners in government for their cooperation in establishing this unique center, which will help ensure equal access to justice for all New Yorkers."
Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman noted, "The state of civil
legal services has reached a turning point in New York. Ninety percent
of all tenants appearing in Housing Court - many facing eviction from their
homes - do not have an attorney. And while the demand for services is great,
the supply is shrinking. To address this current predicament, we have created
the New York State Access to Justice Center, using seed money allocated
for this purpose. The center will galvanize our efforts to find permanent
civil legal service funding streams, and I am confident that it will make
significant headway in this important area of public interest."
Chief Judge Kaye will announce the establishment of the center at the Access to Justice Conference, a court-sponsored forum of judges, court administrators and legal community leaders that convenes in Albany on September 11 and 12. It will be headed by Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, who spearheaded the ground-breaking two-day conference. Judge Newton's unique statewide position and office were specially created in 1999 by Chief Judge Kaye and Chief Administrative Judge Lippman as part of an initiative to promote broader access to the New York justice system.
In addition to discussions on the delivery of civil legal services to poor and moderate income New Yorkers, the Access to Justice Conference will also address the challenge of self-represented litigants, increasing pro bono activity within the legal community and expanding community outreach and education. Following the conference - the first held specifically to address issues of access to justice in New York - administrative judges throughout the state will draft action plans proposing ways to improve access to justice for citizens in their respective localities.