NYSBA President Participates in Chief Judge’s Public Hearing on Civil Legal Services

By Thomas Richards

September 20, 2022

NYSBA President Participates in Chief Judge’s Public Hearing on Civil Legal Services


By Thomas Richards

New York State Bar Association President Sherry Levin Wallach joined Acting Chief Judge Anthony Cannataro, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, and three of the presiding justices of the appellate divisions for the thirteenth annual Chief Judge’s Public Hearing on Civil Legal Services on Sept. 19.

The hearing, held each fall at the Court of Appeals in Albany, is an opportunity for the Unified Court System to assess the extent and nature of unmet civil legal services needs throughout New York State. The findings from the hearing help to form the recommendations included in the annual report submitted by the chief judge to the Legislature and executive branch on the level of public resources needed to meet unmet civil legal needs statewide.

Cannataro, in his capacity as acting chief judge, presided over the hearing, which featured testimony from Deborah Enix-Ross, president of the American Bar Association; David F. Levine, chief legal officer of Bloomberg; Hon. Meredith A. Vacca, a county court judge in Monroe County and Elizabeth R. Benjamin, vice president for health initiatives at the Community Service Society of New York. Clients and providers of legal services also gave testimony.

Presenters spoke about the barriers to access to justice facing low-income New Yorkers and members of vulnerable communities, including the elderly, persons with disabilities, immigrants, victims of domestic violence, persons with heavy medical debt, and those at risk of losing their homes.

The lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — amplified for some court users by rising inflation and natural disasters in parts of the state and country —  increased the need for public civil legal services, presenters testified.

With reference to the association’s 2020 report of the Task Force on Rural Justice, presenters commented on the profound justice gaps in rural areas of the state, and discussed strategies, including the use of centralized parts and other methods to encourage young lawyers to practice in rural areas.

Focusing on progress made to bridge the access to justice gap during and after the COVID-19 crisis, testimony also highlighted collaboration between the courts, legal service providers, law firms, and the business community to improve the delivery of civil legal services, including through new technologies.

The New York State Bar Association is committed to access to justice for all New Yorkers and diligently works with the courts, legal services providers, and other stakeholders, including the members of the association’s Committee on Legal Aid and President’s Committee on Access to Justice, to fill the need for civil legal services.

Support for the Legal Services Corporation is a perennial federal legislative priority for the association, and student loan debt relief and funding for broadband – both topics of discussion during the hearing – are also policy goals.

Testimony also touched on the need for increased pro bono service. The National Celebration of Pro Bono is held annually in October and many stakeholders, including NYSBA, hold events during the month to commend the importance of pro bono service as a hallmark of the legal profession.

NYSBA actively encourages pro bono service by its members, supporting several pro bono programs through its Department of Public Interest and facilitating pro bono service statewide.  You can learn more about the association’s pro bono programs, or look for other pro bono opportunities here.

For More Information:

Link to hearing webpage.

Link to hearing notice.

Link to list of presenters.





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