Legal Aid's Chief Lawyer Predicts Access to Justice Will be Limited; Vulnerable New Yorkers Will Be Turned Away

Steven Banks, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, told the State Legislature that proposed State cuts for criminal defense and civil legal services will limit access to justice and hurt New Yorkers accused of crimes and families and individuals who need legal help in the midst of this severe economic downturn.

"In the criminal defense area, we cannot keep taking on new cases, provide the constitutionally mandated defense for New Yorkers, and absorb new State cuts on top of $3 million in cuts that we have already sustained in the State and City budgets this year," Banks said. "On the civil side, we have also already suffered $3 million in cuts in the State and City budgets and we are forced to turn away six out of every seven New Yorkers who seek our help, and now with the new State cuts we'll 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."

Banks testified before the State Assembly Committees on Codes, Judiciary, Governmental Operations and Corrections in Albany. Adriene Holder, Attorney-in-Charge of the Civil Practice, and Deborah Wright, President of The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, also presented testimony on the affects of proposed State budget cuts on low income individuals and families.

Read the full testimony