Non-Lawyers May Be Given Role in Closing 'Justice Gap'

, New York Law Journal


Despite the pro bono contributions made by attorneys and the courts' funding of civil legal services, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said the state still faces a pressing need to provide more legal help to low-income New Yorkers

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What's being said

  • Private Practice

    Encouraging non-lawyers to act as lawyers is a terrible idea, especially when we already have such high un/underemployment of recent law grads. How about actually subsidizing public law schools enough that a grad can cater to the middle class and not just businesses and the wealthy? How about public law schools that have enough practical training that grads can hit the ground running, now that the private bar can't afford to train everyone?

  • NYS Courts ex-wife

    If we want to be concerned about OCA circumventing the NYS Legislature, how about that backroom deal they maneuvered to get the judges $60,000 annual raises in the middle of the recession? Any judicial raises must be approved by the Legislature so why weren't those 50% raises run by the representatives of the voters for approval? (not to mention the $5,000 annual increase (100% increase over the previous level) for thier reimbursed "expenses", and the double-dipping of salaries and pensions by judges?). I have more of an issue with the good-old-boys thumbing their noses at the rules for their own self gain than I do with them skirting rules for the benefit of the impoverished.

    Regarding the NYS judiciary's role in providing for the needy, the NYS courts already offer free access for victims and litigants in Family and Housing Courts and the Supreme and Appellate Courts waive fees via "poor person relief" applications. The reality is, ALL access to ALL courts should be free. No one should ever be expected to pay to obtain justice - the basic premise of our democracy is to offer "freedom and justice for all". Rights shouldn't come with a price tag.

    The only issue here is the makeup of this committee. Once again, a LIppman appointed committee is composed primarily of lawyers with a few advocacy groups tossed in this time for window dressing (no advocates were included in his Matrimonial and Judicial Compensation committeees) - but this committee has absolutely no victims or litigants and no operational auditors (the people who are actually trained to figure out how to make a system run efficiently and effectively!).

    What we really need in NYS is to make the court system user-friendly, modern, efficient, and accessible. No one should ever need a lawyer at all to obtain justice and fairness - litigants should be able to file their own RJI's/motions/etc. via an online system that gives full descriptions and information in simple English, not bastardized Latin terms that lawyers love to banter about at their mobster rates of $350 an hour and up (in comparison, firefighters only get $40 an hour, and they save lives, not ruin them). Accountants should be allowed to file Net Worth statements and argue (and rule on) financial matters (NYS has judges who don't even know the difference between a mortgage and an equity line - read some of their sadly hilarious decisions), and we need 100% quarterly audits of trusts and estates. NYS needs to abandon its antiquated rules of discovery and usury trustee fees and mercenary judgment/attorney billing interest rates (9% when the current prime rate is 0.25%? These rates should be tied to prime. Period.). Abandon in court conferences in favor of teleconferencing, make all court houses accessible (ever try to get a wheelchair into the Staten Island courthouse or the Appellate Division in Brooklyn?), open courts on nights and weekends (or at least make court employees work the full day they're paid for, judges included), fire all the crony appointees, audit all judicial appointments for conflicts, publish all annual judicial financial filings, audit campaign contributions, disallow all chambers "off-the-record" conferences, install voice systems for court reporting and make all transcripts available online for free, disallow working from home by court lawyers to assure the safety and privacy of court records, and have trained managers (M.B.A.s) run the entire system and beef up audits and oversights.

  • S.S.Tobey

    Jonathan Lippman must reign in his penchant for advocacy, quit legislating and rededicate himself and his administrators to efforts that are consistent with the separation of powers doctrine and the role of the judiciary as defined in our state constitution. The legislature alone is constitutionally charged with providing for the needy. The judiciary is thus without a role to play in providing civil legal services to low income New Yorkers. If this constitutional scheme is as repugnant to Mr. Lippman as it appears to be, he should resign his current position and run for the legislature.

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