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NYSBA: Fund courts’ essential functions

The New York State Bar Association is urging state legislators to adequately fund civil legal services to ensure access to justice for indigent state residents and to keep the courts functioning in an efficient manner by fully funding the Unified Court System’s recently-submitted $2.44 billion budget request.

Testifying on behalf of NYSBA President Michael E. Getnick, Past NYSBA President G. Robert Witmer Jr., of the Rochester office of Nixon Peabody LLP, reiterated the association’s commitment to supporting the state court system, to advocating on behalf of the legal profession and to supporting the civil legal service needs of low-income New Yorkers.

His comments were made during a Joint Legislative Public Hearing on the 2010-2011 Public Protection Budget in Albany this week.

“The fair and impartial administration of justice is a fundamental responsibility of government, one upon which the vitality of our democracy depends,” Witmer told legislators. Year in and year out, New York’s courts adjudicate millions of disputes, both great and small, and guarantee a “day in court” to all people, including the weak, the poor and the unpopular.

Noting the Unified Court System is one of the largest and busiest in the world, Witmer also stressed the importance of a well-functioning judicial system to legislators.

“The annual caseload of the courts is at an all-time high, exceeding 4.7 million filings for the first time,” he said. “It is expected that the economic downturn will continue to bring additional cases to the courts. If the

Judiciary does not receive funding requested in its budget, it will be forced to reduce its workforce, potentially through layoffs, at a time when the courts’ workload is increasing. Undoubtedly, this would seriously jeopardize the fair and swift administration of justice.”

The NYSBA is urging all members to write to their legislators in support of the Judiciary’s budget proposal.
For a full copy of Witmer’s testimony, visit www.nysba.org/WitmerBudgetTestimony.