New York’s judiciary seeking big expansion of civil legal aid

New York’s chief judge will propose a $100 million increase in state financing for lawyers who represent the poor in civil cases that deal with “the essentials of life” like eviction and child support, the New York Times reported.

“The proposal by the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, is to be released on Wednesday,” the report said. “If approved by the Legislature, it would provide a major source of financing for lawyers for the poor and be a striking acknowledgment that the state’s court system is being overwhelmed by some 2.3 million people a year who cannot afford representation. While criminal defendants are guaranteed a lawyer, people fighting civil cases are not.”

“This would be by several measures the most significant commitment to civil justice any state legislature has made in the country,” said Don Saunders, a vice president of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the largest national group of lawyers for the poor. “There is nothing even close to that.”

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