Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Applauds Action of State Supreme Court Helping to Fund Civil Legal Aid
The Board President and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. expressed their support and appreciation to the State Supreme Court, applauding the Order entered by Chief Justice Castille, dated April 2, which helps fund civil legal aid programs by assessing a $25 surcharge on attorney annual registration fees. These funds are to be forwarded to the Court’s Pa. IOLTA Board to help support civil legal aid.
The Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network is made up of thirteen legal aid programs, handling about 100,000 civil cases annually for low income Pennsylvanians who need representation on matters affecting their basic needs, such as housing, income, health, and protection against domestic violence. These legal aid programs provide legal services in every county of the state, and offer specialized help in areas such as health, utilities and housing.
Due to historically low interest rates, one major source of funding which has helped support legal aid services has been decimated, causing a 9 million dollar reduction in annual funding to the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc., the umbrella for these programs. This represents about a 30% loss of funding for PLAN, Inc. legal aid support, in the span of two years. Today’s action by the Court will help regain 5% of that 30% loss, as legal aid programs look to other sources to help assure that important client services can continue.
Charles B. Gibbons, a partner with the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll Rooney, PC, and President of the PLAN, Inc. Board of Directors stated, “This was an excellent step by the Supreme Court, which took action to help address the immediate needs surrounding access to justice in Pennsylvania. Attorneys across the Commonwealth will each contribute a small amount to help assure that our courts can be considered truly accessible to all residents of Pennsylvania. I am proud that I, and members of my firm, will be part of this contribution.”
Samuel Milkes, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Inc. also commended the Court’s action, noting that “legal aid programs have been forced into layoffs and other forms of staff reduction, just at a time when the need for our services continues to increase. We represent families facing foreclosure and loss of healthcare; clients in need of court ordered protection from domestic violence; and many others, at risk of losing housing and other basic needs. They come to us when they have nowhere else to turn, and we do our best to help all who make contact with us. We cannot say enough to express our appreciation for this action by the Supreme Court and by the lawyers of Pennsylvania to help make up a part of our loss of support and to assure the principle of justice for all.”