PLAN, Inc. applauds Pennsylvania’s Chief Justice, Ronald Castille, for his public plea today to Pennsylvania’s lawyers, encouraging them to support civil legal aid programs by handling pro bono cases for those unable to afford legal representation and by making financial contributions to the legal aid programs that represent low income clients. We also applaud PBA President Forrest Myers for joining with the Chief Justice in making this plea.
The Chief Justice points out that today, only about one in ten low income individuals in need of civil legal aid are able to be represented through legal aid programs and through the pro bono efforts of Pennsylvania attorneys.
During his final year on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille is making his last formal plea to lawyers to support the Commonwealth's civil legal aid programs by providing pro bono service through direct representation and financial contributions.
In a letter to Pennsylvania's approximately 70,000 registered lawyers, the chief justice joined with Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) President Forest N. Myers in calling on attorneys to make a personal commitment to provide pro bono service. The reminder of their ethical duty to provide public service is being widely distributed to the legal community by the courts and PBA.
I am pleased to announce that as its first vote, upon returning from summer recess, the State House passed HB 1337 yesterday by a vote of 198-0! Once approved by the Senate and the Governor, the bill will provide increased funding for legal services. It was not amended other than the friendly amendment that was first adopted when the House Judiciary Committee reported the bill out.
The following was released today for immediate publication by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts:
Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille said today that rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 2012 are again paying big dividends in helping provide legal services for low income Pennsylvanians.
A civil procedure rule that took effect July 1, 2012, directed how money left over from lawsuits after the plaintiffs, attorney fees and expenses have been paid is to be distributed.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, along with other judges, low-income Pennsylvanians and the lawyers who help them, as well as community and business leaders, testified at a Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee Public Hearing, Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent: Have We Achieved Equal Access to Justice?that was held on Thursday, May 23 in Philadelphia. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart J.
An article entitled A poor excuse for justice by Philadelphia Daily News Political Columnist John Baer, appears on Philly.com today.
The article discusses the lack of a right to legal counsel in civil cases, which is the state of affairs in Pennsylvania. Currently, low income people are forced to seek assistance from overextended legal aid programs or represent themselves in civil cases, even is there a risk of losing their home or a child, or if they are in need protection from abuse.
The purpose of the public hearing was to explore and create awareness of the current state and scope of the unmet need for civil legal services by low-income Pennsylvanians confronting legal problems involving basic human needs.
UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that, on June 22, 2012, the Governor signed Senate Bill 1433 which funds legal services housing work at $600,000 per year for the next 5 years and which restarts the HEMAP program.
Senate Bill 1433 is now headed for the Governor’s signature. All expectations are that he will sign this bill. The Bill includes important funding to restart the dormant Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) and it contains needed funding to legal services programs for representation in housing cases.
The announcement yesterday from the Governor’s Budget Office that funding to civil legal aid is being cut by 10% is devastating news. Because the immediate cut occurs half way into the fiscal year, spending of state funds for the remainder of the fiscal year will now have to be cut by 20%.
This editorial discusses the current situation in America where experts estimate that four-fifths of low-income people have no access to a lawyer when they need one. This coupled with research showing that litigants representing themselves often fare less well than those with lawyers, creates a "justice gap" that falls heavily on the poor.