Civil Legal Services Important to Client Community, NYSDA Notes
ALBANY, NY (07/28/2017) As it celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) continues its mission “to improve the quality and scope of publicly supported legal representation to low income people.” NYSDA’s work focuses on legal representation mandated by constitutional and statutory law in criminal and family matters. “But NYSDA has long recognized the importance of civil legal services as well,” Executive Director Charles F. O’Brien said today. He was responding to the latest news about the battle for federal funding of legal services, with the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Commerce recommending that the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) receive the same $385 million in funding that was provided last year. In the face of the Administration’s proposal to defund LSC entirely, “NYSDA joins others, including the American Bar Association, who support continued funding for LSC,” O’Brien stated.
Past NYSDA support for civil legal services can be seen in its testimony several years ago at a state legislative hearing on IOLA-the Interest on Lawyer Account Fund, a mechanism for providing funding-and the future of civil legal services. In that testimony, then-Executive Director Jonathan E. Gradess said: “We work with public defense lawyers for the ultimate good of clients, and those clients are the same people, from the same communities, who need civil legal services.”
O’Brien pointed out that NYSDA takes “a client-centered approach to public defense representation,” recognizing that “issues like housing and employment opportunities play a huge role in criminal and family court matters.” He went on, “good lawyering to stop improper evictions or denial of government benefits is crucial in helping keep families together and family members out of the justice system.”