Budget Cuts Will Have Harsh Impact on Low Income New Yorkers, Legal Aid's Chief Attorney Warns NYC Council
TUESDAY, JUNE 01, 2010

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, testified before the New York City Council today and warned that proposed City cuts for criminal defense and civil legal services in the Mayor's Fiscal Year 2011 Executive Budget will have an especially harsh impact on low income New Yorkers during these extraordinary economic times. "The need for the legal help that the Society provides to these struggling families and individuals is increasing exponentially," Banks told the City Council Budget cuts in the midst of this severe economic downturn hurt families and individuals who need legal help and New Yorkers accused – often wrongfully – of criminal conduct.

In the criminal defense area, we cannot keep taking on new cases, provide the constitutionally mandated defense for New Yorkers, and absorb new City cuts, especially at a time when our criminal defense caseload of new cases continues to increase as a result of increased arrests in New York City – even as officials proclaim that crime is down.

On the civil side, the numbers of vulnerable New Yorkers who are seeking our civil legal assistance have increased dramatically during this extraordinary economic downturn and we are forced to turn away eight out of every nine New Yorkers who seek our help. With the new proposed City cuts, we will have to turn away more families and individuals who need legal aid to get unemployment and disability benefits, flee from domestic violence, and prevent evictions, foreclosures, and homelessness – which is at record levels in New York City.

Read the full testimony.