David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
Date: January 15, 2004
|Creation of Statewide System Called For to Boost Numbers of New York Attorneys Providing Free Legal Services for the Poor|
NEW YORK - A report today
released by the Unified Court System recommends instituting
a statewide pro bono system to increase the amount of time
New York attorneys spend rendering free legal services to
the poor and to promote participation in pro bono by a greater
percentage of the state’s bar. The report, entitled
“The Future of Pro Bono in New York,” showed that
less than half of lawyers in New York (46 percent) performed
pro bono work for indigent citizens in 2002. This number represents
a slight decrease since 1997 when the number of attorneys
participating in pro bono was 47 percent, despite the fact
that in that year the State’s Administrative Board of
the Courts adopted a resolution urging attorneys to provide
annually at least 20 hours of pro bono services to poor persons.
According to the report, only 27 percentage of New York attorneys
fulfilled the Administrative Board’s Resolution minimum
of 20 hours in 2002.
Legal services for the poor are most drastically needed in
the area of civil disputes, since legal representation in
criminal cases and certain Family Court cases is required
by law and provided through public funds. However, according
to the report, pro bono service in civil matters is the category
that experienced the greatest decline over the past five years:
dropping from 39 percent in 1997 to 34 percent in 2002.
The two-volume report was compiled by the Office of the Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives, Hon. Juanita Bing Newton, and consists of a survey of 2002 pro bono activity in New York and recommendations for increasing pro bono that emerged from four Pro Bono Convocations held throughout the state in 2002. The convocations were attended by representatives from bar associations, legal services and pro bono providers, judges, lawyers and legal educators. The convocations’ key recommendation of instituting a statewide pro bono system includes the creation of local committees to oversee the development and implementation of pro bono action plans in jurisdictions throughout the state, with the support of a central statewide standing committee. The recommendations outlined in the report are subject to a 90-day comment period.
Presently, there are over 100 pro bono programs in New York State, operated by local bar associations, legal services agencies, public interest groups and court personnel.
Copies of the report, “The Future of Pro Bono in New York,” can be obtained from the court system website at www.nycourts.gov/reports/probono/ or by calling 212-428-2500.