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NYSBA calls for new legal service center

The New York State Bar Association and its president, Glenn Lau-Kee, will propose a $5 million capital expenditure to create a Civil Legal Service Center in Albany, similar to the Telesca Center for Justice in Rochester.

The new center would bring the Albany Region’s civil legal service providers under one roof, at a central location easily accessible to clients, especially for those using public transportation.

“By housing multiple services in one building, clients in need of legal assistance can more easily find the organization that can best serve their needs,” Lau-Kee said in a release. “In addition, co-location allows the organizations to save money by sharing resources.”

The building, near the Court of Appeals, also could serve as a resource center for legal services attorneys across New York, offering a moot courtroom where they could prepare to argue cases before the state’s highest court.

State funding is being sought to purchase and develop real property that would become the permanent base of operation for the center. Lau-Kee has proposed tapping the state’s projected multi-billion budget surplus to cover the capital costs.

Lau-Kee also praised the judiciary’s proposed 2015-16 budget, submitted Monday to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature, saying it will enhance public access to the state court system.

If approved, the $2 billion spending plan would provide $70 million — a $15 million increase — for civil legal services to low-income New Yorkers who cannot afford to hire an attorney, according to the release.

It would also adequately staff courthouses to ensure they remain open until 5 p.m. and ensure a full year of funding for 20 new Family Court judges, who take office Jan. 1, and an initial three months of funding for five judges, who will assume office in 2016. The 25 new judgeships were approved by the Legislature in 2014.

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