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Statewide Coalition Report Details Growing Crisis In Meeting Critical Legal Needs Of Low-Income Pennsylvanians

Coalition Urges Creation of New Commission

A report released by the Pennsylvania Civil Legal Justice Coalition on May 6, 2014 concludes that the staggering number of unrepresented low-income litigants in civil legal matters adversely impacts the quality of justice for all parties in Pennsylvania courts, negatively impacts the courts’ administration of justice and undermines the rule of law.

The report, which was released at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee, recommends the creation of a first-ever Access to Justice Commission to serve as a vehicle for studying and implementing measures to expand access to justice in the state.

Chief Justice and PA Bar President Encourage Pennsylvania Lawyers to Support Access to Justice

PLAN, Inc. applauds Pennsylvania’s Chief Justice, Ronald Castille, for his pubic plea today to Pennsylvania’s lawyers, encouraging them to support civil legal aid programs by handling pro bono cases for those unable to afford legal representation and by making financial contributions to the legal aid programs that represent low income clients. We also applaud PBA President Forrest Myers for joining with the Chief Justice in making this plea.

The Chief Justice points out that today, only about one in ten low income individuals in need of civil legal aid are able to be represented through legal aid programs and through the pro bono efforts of Pennsylvania attorneys.

Chief Justice Castille Asks Lawyers to Support Access to Justice for All

Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. CastilleDuring his final year on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Pennsylvania Ronald D. Castille is making his last formal plea to lawyers to support the Commonwealth's civil legal aid programs by providing pro bono service through direct representation and financial contributions.

In a letter to Pennsylvania's approximately 70,000 registered lawyers, the chief justice joined with Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) President Forest N. Myers in calling on attorneys to make a personal commitment to provide pro bono service. The reminder of their ethical duty to provide public service is being widely distributed to the legal community by the courts and PBA.

Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent: Have We Achieved Equal Access to Justice?

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, along with other judges, low-income Pennsylvanians and the lawyers who help them, as well as  community and business leaders, testified at a Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee Public Hearing, Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent: Have We Achieved Equal Access to Justice?  that was held on Thursday, May 23 in Philadelphia. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart J.

A poor excuse for justice

An article entitled A poor excuse for justice by Philadelphia Daily News Political Columnist John Baer, appears on Philly.com today.

The article discusses the lack of a right to legal counsel in civil cases, which is the state of affairs in Pennsylvania. Currently, low income people are forced to seek assistance from overextended legal aid programs or represent themselves in civil cases, even is there a risk of losing their home or a child, or if they are in need protection from abuse.

PA Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Public Hearing on Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent

The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee held a Public Hearing entitled, Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent: Have We Achieved Equal Access to Justice? on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 8E-B in the East Wing of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Montgomery, Bucks) chaired the hearing.

The purpose of the public hearing was to explore and create awareness of the current state and scope of the unmet need for civil legal services by low-income Pennsylvanians confronting legal problems involving basic human needs.

Ensuring Access to Justice When It Really Counts: PBA President Thomas Wilkinson Jr. Weighs In

PBA Side BaarThe March-April issue of the Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine, a publication of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, features an insightful "Side Bar" by PBA President Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr. entitled, Ensuring Access to Justice When It Really Counts.

Supreme Court reminds lawyers of ethical duty to provide public service

by Sam Milkes, Executive Director

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts issued the following release regarding a letter Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille is directing toward Pennsylvania attorneys concerning the current funding crisis in legal aid in Pennsylvania and the need for an additional commitment toward pro bono service to help fill the gap for Pennsylvanians in need of legal assistance.

American Bar Association President Visits MidPenn Legal Services Commends Efforts of Legal Aid and Private Lawyers

On Wednesday, November 09, 2011, American Bar Association President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III visited the Harrisburg office of MidPenn Legal Services, the legal aid program providing vital legal services in the 18 county area of central Pennsylvania.

Judge John E. Jones III, Federal Judge of the Middle District of Pennsylvania also attended the meeting, with representatives of MidPenn, including its Executive Director, Rhodia Thomas, the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network Executive Director, Samuel Milkes, and the Executive Director of the Supreme Court’s Pa. IOLTA program, Al Azen. Jim DeAngelo participated as a member of the board of MidPenn and PLAN, Inc. as Chair of the Dauphin County Pro Bono Program, and as a Past President of the Dauphin County Bar Association. David Trevaskis, pro bono staff and the Pa. Bar Association, and Sandy Ballard, pro bono staff person for the Dauphin County Bar Association also attended. Representatives of the Administrative office of the Pennsylvania Courts, including, Tom Darr, Deputy Court Administrator of Pennsylvania, also attended.

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Addressing the Justice Gap in America

On August 23 the New York Times published an editorial entitled, Addressing the Justice Gap on its website.

This editorial discusses the current situation in America where experts estimate that four-fifths of low-income people have no access to a lawyer when they need one. This coupled with research showing that litigants representing themselves often fare less well than those with lawyers, creates a "justice gap" that falls heavily on the poor.

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