On May 3, at a 2010 Law Day speech in Albany, Jonathan Lippman '68, chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, announced a planned proposal to ensure that poor people in civil cases have access to lawyers. He has appointed Helaine Barnett '64, the former president of the Legal Services Corporation, as chair of the new Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York.

Lippman’s proposal, the first of its kind by a top New York court official, aims to provide “equal access to civil justice” by having the state government provide legal counsel to people in civil cases who cannot afford a lawyer. “I am not talking about a single initiative, pilot project, or temporary program,” Lippman said during his speech, “but what I believe must be a comprehensive, multifaceted, systemic approach to providing counsel to the indigent in civil cases.” The New York Times reported that Lippman plans to hold hearings around the state to assess the unmet need before completing a detailed proposal.

Lippman also announced the new task force, which will be chaired by Barnett. The task force will begin work immediately to determine the most pressing issues relating to the proposal. According to the New York Law Journal, the members of the task force will be announced in the coming weeks.

Posted May 5, 2010