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January 01, 2014

New York’s Template to Address the Crisis in Civil Legal Services

By Judge Jonathan Lippman

In the face of our nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, millions of vulnerable, low-income individuals navigate our state civil justice systems without lawyers. This lack of representation impairs their ability to pursue their rights and remedies, imposes tremendous costs on both litigants and their families, and places an untenable burden on our courts and communities.

It has been my central objective as New York’s chief judge to confront the acute need for civil legal assistance in our state. Today’s declining and unpredictable funding streams and rising poverty rates have made this effort all the more urgent. Nonetheless, New York’s judiciary, with the support of our partners in government and the legal community, has begun to address the justice gap that exists in New York. In this article I describe how we have done so, which I hope others may find helpful. New York State is not alone in identifying the critical importance of this issue. Our work is part of a growing movement nationwide that recognizes the vital necessity of civil legal representation for the poor and near-poor to sustaining a functioning legal system and protecting equal justice for all.

The Problem

The Economy and the Crisis in Civil Legal Services

The state of the economy has greatly exacerbated the difference between the degree of need for civil legal services and the availability to the poor and near-poor. Poverty levels in New York and the United States exceed 15 percent, and the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the poverty rate for the country rose from 2010 to 2011, with almost 2.3 million more Americans living in poverty in 2011 than in 2010.1 Nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers cannot afford enough food in their homes, and the foreclosure crisis continues.2 The hardest hit are the most vulnerable, threatening their futures and those of their families.

The consequences of these poverty levels make our courts truly the emergency rooms of society. Life’s most acute difficulties bring our citizens to the courts, and these burdens fall most heavily on the poor and near-poor, who turn to us in greater numbers in these troubled times. People living in poverty are more likely to be overwhelmed by debt and more likely to fall behind in their rent.3 Each day, our court dockets tell the story of the human cost of our economic woes. Foreclosure, consumer credit, family, and personal issues flare up in times of stress, always more prevalent for the poor, and are all the more common during an economic downturn.4

The statistics on the unmet need for legal services in New York State are staggering. Each year, more than 2.3 million people in New York become parties to a civil lawsuit with no lawyer to assist them.5 The lack of legal representation is a particularly acute problem in cases involving basic human needs. Sixty-three percent of homeowners at statutorily required foreclosure settlement conferences in 2010 had no lawyer.6 More than 98 percent of tenants were unrepresented in eviction cases.7 Ninety-nine percent of borrowers in the hundreds of thousands of consumer credit cases filed in New York City each year were without representation.8 Statewide, more than 95 percent of parents in child support cases go unrepresented.9

Underlying these statistics are frightened and vulnerable human beings who are grappling with life-altering legal problems. They are trying to save their homes from predatory lenders, recover back wages from employers, end abuse by a violent spouse or partner, or obtain financial support to give their children the care they need,10 but they cannot afford a lawyer to help them. While some may find a legal services provider who can assist them free of charge, there are not nearly enough providers to go around.11

Judges witness every day the impact of this lack of legal services on court outcomes, on their role as neutral arbiters, and on the resources of the court system. At our hearings in New York, judges noted the effect on case dispositions when one party is represented and the other is not.12 A housing court judge in Manhattan noted that unrepresented litigants are “routinely at a disadvantage,” lacking as they do “both the knowledge and the tools to properly assert their rights and assess their claims.”13 The judge describes a typical scenario:

[U]nrepresented litigants in housing court are pulled aside daily by opposing counsel and offered settlement agreements. Often they are induced into signing such agreements with comments like[:] “Sign this and you will get out quickly,” “This is the best you can do” and “If you don’t agree to this, you will have 5 days to pay or you will be evicted.” These unrepresented litigants, who often do not speak English as their primary language, regularly sign stipulations that they do not fully understand as they tend to be unfamiliar with their rights and overcome by the fear of losing their home. These agreements that they sign are not written in plain language but rather contain terms that an individual without a legal background cannot be expected to understand.14

Cases with unrepresented parties take more time, burdening overloaded court systems further. Judges slow themselves down to provide explanations to litigants who understand neither the law, the procedure, nor the culture of the courtroom. Even service of process appears “confusing and complex” to unrepresented litigants, according to a family court judge from Orange County. They “simply do not know and understand what constitutes sufficient service.” Frequently, “ten to fifteen minutes of a court appearance can be spent trying to explain the service of process procedures to unrepresented litigants.”15 Ten or 15 extra minutes multiplied throughout a heavy court calendar add up to hours of extra time each day for judges and court staff trying to help unrepresented litigants with the most basic information.

That time impacts all litigants in such cases. As litigator David Boies stated:

I can tell you from personal experience that I would much rather have somebody represented on the other side than be faced with a pro se litigant. It costs me much more time, it costs my client much more money to deal with the delays, the disruptions. It also requires the Court to, in effect, step in a little bit as an advocate for their side, which distorts our adversarial process. So, from every aspect, I would much rather have somebody represented on the other side than be with a pro se litigant.16

Moreover, judges who take the extra time to explain law and court procedure face ethical constraints. A top administrative judge from upstate New York presented the dilemma clearly:

While the judge must take time to explain the law and its applicability in the case, there is a fine line that a judge must walk to try to be fair and neutral to both sides, and not give the appearance of favoring the unrepresented litigant.

Moreover, “the explanation of the procedural and substantive law that the unrepresented receive is cursory at best.”17

These observations and experiences illuminate the deep need for expanded access to legal services and the burden that its absence places on judges, on the unrepresented, and on the system as a whole. Yet, as a judiciary, our mission transcends these burdens. We must hear and resolve each and every case that is filed with us. The judiciary has a very basic constitutional obligation to try cases, to render decisions, and, in doing so, to deliver justice. That is an unchanging obligation in the best economic times and—even more so—in the worst. This means not only that our doors must be open to everyone but also that we must provide justice that is meaningful, fair, impartial, and equal for all. But when so many unrepresented litigants come into our courts without the benefit of an attorney, we cannot fulfill our constitutional mandate.

Constricted Funding for Civil Legal Services

As the need of the poor and near-poor for civil legal services has intensified, state and federal funding has declined dramatically. Ongoing reductions to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) budget have imposed extensive layoffs by legal services organizations,18 and the LSC’s budget —the single largest source of funding for civil legal aid—continues to be seriously threatened by congressional cuts.19 Here in New York, some of our largest legal services organizations are struggling to survive as LSC funding shrinks.

Another large portion of the funding for civil legal services in New York, as in every state, comes from an Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program. The sluggish economy and historically low interest rates have hit these programs hard; in New York, the available funds rapidly declined to a mere one-fifth of what they used to be, from nearly $32 million in 2008 to only $6.5 million in 2010 and 2011.20

This intolerable state of affairs threatens the very fabric of the legal system. Access to justice is not a luxury just for good times. To the contrary, it is a bedrock value of a society based on the rule of law. For the judiciary and for the legal profession, equal justice for all is our very reason for being. The rule of law itself loses its meaning when legal protection is available only to those who can afford it. This is the most critical challenge facing the justice system today.


For a problem so deeply entrenched, no single strategy can be effective in isolation. At first, the judiciary responded to the crisis in New York by working with the bar to increase pro bono services and intensifying our efforts within the judiciary to better serve the unrepresented. Those efforts helped, but not nearly enough. We clearly needed the unequivocal commitment of state government to the provision of civil legal representation to the poor. Just as we do not close our schools and shutter our hospitals in bad economic times, we cannot abandon those without the legal resources to secure their basic human needs. We must therefore ensure stable, consistent, and ongoing funding for civil legal services, now and for the future. If we fail to do so, many legal services providers will cease to exist, with catastrophic consequences.21

The judiciary must provide strong and visible leadership in this effort. As the Conference of Chief Justices stated in 2001, the judicial branch “shoulders primary leadership responsibility to preserve and protect equal justice and take actions necessary to ensure access to the justice system for those who face impediments they are unable to surmount on their own.”22 Judges know firsthand how a lack of civil legal aid can prove devastating to the lives of our fellow citizens and their families.

Focusing on the Problem

In May 2010, I announced the formation of the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, chaired by Helaine Barnett, former president of the LSC. The group, consisting of judges, lawyers, business executives, representatives from law schools and nonprofit organizations, legal services providers, and labor leaders from all parts of our state, was to measure the extent of unmet need; recommend statewide priorities; define the types of legal matters in which civil legal services are most necessary; identify ways to improve the delivery of services; gather and distribute information about programs, strategies, and technological approaches that have proven successful; and issue guidelines and best practices to help providers. In addition, the Task Force was charged with advocating for expanded funding for civil legal services. Finally, I asked the Task Force to prepare an annual report and to make recommendations for immediate steps to ensure that access to justice is a priority in New York.

In 2010 and again in 2011, I personally presided over four public hearings, one in each of New York’s four Judicial Departments. The chair, individual members of the Task Force, and the highest level of leadership of the State Judiciary and the State Bar Association participated at each hearing. We all understood that if the judiciary and the legal profession did not stand up for civil legal services for the poor in a time of crisis, no one else would. Testimony at the hearings came from judges, legal services providers, legislators, academics, members of the business community, health-care providers and administrators, and litigants themselves. Litigants, in particular, again and again testified that dire personal consequences were averted when they were able to obtain legal counsel.

Our partners in government responded enthusiastically to the hearings. New York’s Senate and Assembly adopted a joint resolution endorsing them and requesting an annual report and recommendations from the chief judge to the governor and the legislature on the need for financial resources.23 This action in effect institutionalized the hearings and put the legislature’s stamp of approval on the process we proposed and now will follow year after year—a process that has a direct impact on the judiciary’s budget in New York.

Funding for Civil Legal Services

In November 2010, following the hearings and intensive research, data collection, surveys, and analysis, the Task Force issued its first report.24 Beyond the compelling legal and moral justifications I have already recounted, this and subsequent reports analyzed the economic benefits of civil legal services.25 These analyses show that civil legal assistance for the poor and the working poor actually pays for itself many times over.26 Business leaders, bankers, property owners, health-care providers, and government and community leaders all testified at Task Force hearings that increasing access to legal assistance benefits their institutional performance and financial bottom lines. The Task Force calculates that New York’s economy benefits to the tune of nearly five dollars for every dollar spent on civil legal services.27

Hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings come from enabling people to pay their bills, preventing unwarranted evictions and homelessness, providing assistance to victims of domestic violence, avoiding foster-care placements and other social services costs, and bringing federal funds into the state. Conversely, New York loses $400 million or more in federal benefits each year due to the inability of unrepresented litigants to access entitlement programming.28 The Task Force’s bottom line was that New York’s economy gains nearly five dollars for every dollar spent on civil legal services.29

The Task Force’s principal recommendation was that the judiciary include $25 million for civil legal services in its budget for the 2011–12 fiscal year. This step was part of a four-year phased-in effort to increase annual funding by $100 million. Because funding for civil legal services, including the legal assistance that helps keep cases out of court, should be part of the judiciary’s budget, I adopted this recommendation and included it as part and parcel of the judiciary’s budget.30 Thanks to our partners in the legislative and executive branches, the judiciary’s budget has included substantial funding for civil legal services over the last two years.31 Despite the deep cuts imposed on the judiciary in 2011, including over 400 layoffs of court personnel,32 our final budget approved by the governor and the legislature that year included $12.5 million in new funding for civil legal services.33

Civil legal services funds went to 56 nonprofit, legal services organizations around the state and, in the first three months alone, funded services in more than 50,000 cases as well as the diversion from court of nearly 10,000 more.34 In addition, the judiciary was able to obtain a $15 million appropriation to rescue IOLTA funding for civil legal services under the umbrella of the judiciary’s budget.35 In the 2012–13 budget, the amount appropriated for the judiciary included $40 million to support civil legal services, by far the highest level of state funding for civil legal services in the country.

It is clearly not feasible to provide every person with a legal problem of any kind with a lawyer at public expense. Instead, we in New York, informed by a historic 2006 American Bar Association Resolution that urges a focus on basic human needs,36 have prioritized those people who seek the “essentials of life”—a roof over their heads, family stability, safety from domestic violence, access to health care and education, or subsistence income and benefits. That is the best way to begin to make immediate and meaningful progress in addressing the access to justice crisis.

In New York, with the chief judge’s hearings, the research and recommendations of a broadly constituted Task Force, support from our partners in government, and the inclusion of funding for legal services in the judiciary’s budget, we have established a systemic process for publicly funded civil legal services for the poor—and have hopefully created a vital precedent for the future.

Additional Work of the Task Force

Beyond the call for funding, the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York has looked broadly at ways to address the justice gap and has pursued creative programs to achieve its recommendations:

  • Simplified court forms and procedures, with increased availability on the court system website.
  • Increased use of alternative conflict resolution efforts.
  • Cost-sharing initiatives among providers.
  • Early intervention by providers.
  • Better use of technology, and education and outreach.
  • Increased law school involvement.

The Task Force convened a national conference at Cardozo Law School in May 2012 on the role of law schools in helping to meet the essential civil legal needs of low-income New Yorkers.37 The conference explored how law schools can be helpful through pro bono work by students, clinics, externships, changes in curriculum, and other initiatives. New York State boasts 15 law schools, fanned across the state from Brooklyn to Buffalo. They all have pro bono programs with a range of opportunities for students. The work of the Task Force promises to amplify the contribution of law schools and law students.

Assistance from the Bar and Court Programs

Public funding is the central and indispensable component of New York’s approach to providing civil legal services, but it is not the whole picture.

Lawyers in New York deserve great credit for the service they do each year to help those in need. Volunteerism is a strain that runs strongly through the profession. Without the outstanding work of New York’s attorneys, the crisis of the unrepresented would be far worse. Pro bono service is supported and encouraged by the New York State Bar Association and the many fine local bar associations in our state.38 These bar associations have a long history of facilitating and promoting pro bono work through placement services, award and recognition programs, training, guidelines, and events.

The court system, too, has devoted substantial time and resources to supporting pro bono work. In the last several years, the courts have created a range of programs that facilitate placements of volunteer attorneys in order to assist and encourage members of the bar in undertaking pro bono work. Through the Volunteer Attorney Program, lawyers are trained by the courts to provide legal advice and assistance to litigants who represent themselves in court.39 Under the supervision of court staff, these volunteers answer questions, assist with petitions and other court forms, help to interpret court orders, and provide guidance in preparation for court hearings. Volunteer attorneys select the court where they will serve and the types of cases on which they wish to consult, from consumer debt cases to landlord/tenant cases to family and matrimonial matters. Participants choose their volunteer schedule and may elect to volunteer as little as a few hours per week.

The Attorney Emeritus Program seeks to access an underutilized segment of the legal community—attorneys in good standing who are at least 55 years old and have a minimum of 10 years of experience.40 Under this program, able and experienced attorneys who previously might have retired can practice law on a pro bono basis, committing to at least 30 hours a year of legal services to low-income clients. Each attorney emeritus works with qualified legal services programs that provide malpractice coverage and access to offices, staff, and any necessary training. With nearly 50 organizations already participating, the program provides a range of opportunities for senior lawyers, mostly baby boomers, to use their retirement years in productive ways to promote the public good. And young lawyers at legal services organizations can learn from working with their more experienced colleagues through this program.

Our court system also coordinates access to justice programs that provide help for unrepresented litigants. Online resources like CourtHelp41 offer step-by-step information on navigating the court system and contain extensive FAQs with the answers to many common legal questions. It offers user-friendly court forms and interactive guides to completing them.42 The court system also operates Help Centers throughout the state. These courthouse-based Help Centers operate on a first-come, first-served basis to any unrepresented litigant, regardless of income.43 Staffed by court attorneys and clerks, they provide procedural and legal information as well as referrals to attorneys, legal clinics, and other services.

Law Students and Bar Applicants

To emphasize that a culture of service is a core value of our profession, I announced in May 2012 that effective January 1, 2013, applicants to the bar would be required to contribute 50 hours of participation in law-related pro bono work before they would be admitted to practice law in New York, the first state to make pro bono service a prerequisite to admission to the bar. This hands-on experience, gained through helping others, will engender in new lawyers a sense of what it means to be a member of the bar of our state.44 The idea has already begun to take root elsewhere. In October 2012, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey formed a committee to consider implementing a similar rule in his state.45

While 50 hours amounts to little more than a few days of service, it will undoubtedly help to fill the justice gap. Every year, about 10,000 prospective lawyers pass the New York bar exam.46 If each of them completed 50 hours of law-related pro bono work before gaining admission to the bar, the aggregate would be 500,000 pro bono hours completed each year to benefit those in need of legal help, creating a positive impact on persons of limited means, communities, and organizations that would gain from this infusion of pro bono work.

By engaging in work such as assisting a family facing eviction or foreclosure, working with an attorney to draft a contract for a fledgling not-for-profit, helping a victim of domestic violence obtain a divorce, or using their legal talents to help state and local government entities, law students can experience the intrinsic reward that comes from helping others through pro bono service that will stay with them for a lifetime. To participate in legal work, prospective attorneys will work under the supervision of licensed attorneys, giving prospective attorneys the opportunity to learn from more experienced mentors.

Toward a Civil Gideon

Our work in New York to expand access to civil legal services is designed to make immediate and meaningful progress in addressing the current crisis. At the same time, it may serve to lay a foundation for the day when litigants will receive civil legal representation in keeping with the ethos of the Supreme Court’s decision in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright.47 Gideon stands for the proposition that criminal defendants have a constitutional right to counsel, but it also is a call for our society to give legal assistance to human beings facing life-transforming legal crises.48 The title of Anthony Lewis’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book about the case, Gideon’s Trumpet,49 resonates with the moral force of the Supreme Court’s decision as well as biblical overtones of righteous justice. That trumpet sounds for all those whose basic human needs are at stake in a legal system that must be meaningful for each and every one of us, regardless of means. The issues at stake in civil cases involving the necessities of life can be every bit as critical to one’s existence and well-being on this earth as the very loss of liberty itself.

The ideal of a civil Gideon remains a daunting challenge. Yet, I believe there is a promising strategy emerging. Consider the Gideon case for a moment, in which the Supreme Court famously stated that, “in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth.”50 But what seemed an obvious truth in Gideon had not seemed obvious to the Supreme Court only 21 years before in Betts v. Brady, where the Court held that the Constitution did not mandate the provision of free counsel to indigent criminal defendants.51 What changed over those 21 years?

After Betts, many states and localities took it upon themselves to provide counsel to the accused through various means, including state and local legislation and the voluntary efforts of bar associations. These efforts changed the legal landscape in America and ultimately were crucial in convincing the justices in Gideon that they were not making an unwarranted constitutional leap that was too far out of step with public opinion. In fact, only two decades after Betts, 22 states filed amicus briefs in support of Clarence Gideon’s claim that he was entitled to counsel. That groundswell of support from the states had a strong persuasive effect on the Supreme Court. The justices ultimately concluded that it was time for the law to evolve in recognition of this major shift in public opinion.

The recognition of a right to counsel in criminal cases was a landmark in the fight for equal justice in our country, although, to be sure, there is still much work to be done. I believe there is a valid analogy to be made with regard to legal representation of the poor in civil cases involving the necessities of life. A diverse and growing coalition of bar associations, judicial leaders, service providers, academics, and others are experimenting on the ground with creative ideas and approaches to expand legal representation through new funding streams, greater lawyer volunteerism, and other programs and initiatives.

As discussed, the American Bar Association in its 2006 Resolution called upon the federal and state governments to provide counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low-income persons in adversarial proceedings involving “basic human needs,”52 and the Joint Resolution of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators in 2008 urged the nation’s top judges “to take a leadership role in their respective jurisdictions to prevent denials of access to justice.”53 In California, the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act put in place a multiyear pilot program beginning in October 2011 to provide counsel to indigent persons in domestic violence, child-custody, and housing cases.54 In February 2012, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance declaring San Francisco the “first ‘Right to Civil Counsel City’ in the United States” and making a firm commitment to the goal of establishing a right to counsel in civil proceedings.55 In Texas, tremendous strides have been made in providing legal services for the poor.56 State and local bar associations have taken up the cause elsewhere, including in Philadelphia57 and in Boston, where housing counsel pilot projects have resulted in improved outcomes for litigants in eviction cases.58 All these efforts help to measure the extent of the justice gap and draw attention to how absolutely critical civil legal services are to the protection of our fundamental rights.

In New York, the template that I have outlined in this article provides a systemic approach to funding civil legal services. These efforts and so many more around the country reinforce the obvious truth that legal representation in civil cases involving the basic necessities of life is fundamental to the delivery of justice. Civilized societies are ultimately judged by how they treat their most vulnerable citizens. The biblical command from thousands of years ago resonates today—“Justice, Justice shall you pursue for rich and poor, high and low alike.”59 That pursuit of justice defines us and is absolutely critical to the future well-being of our nation and its people.


1. Alemayehu Bishaw, U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty: 2010 and 2011: American Community Survey Briefs 3 (2012), available at; see also Hope Yen, U.S. Poverty on Track to Climb to Highest Rate Since 1960s, Associated Press, July 22, 2012.

2. See Alisha Coleman-Jensen et al., U.S. Dep’t of Agric., Household Food Security in the United States in 2010, at 17 (2011), available at See Amanda Fung, NY-Area’s Foreclosures Still Rising, Crain’s N.Y. Bus. (May 9, 2012, 5:59 AM), (“[The New York metropolitan area’s] serious delinquency rate, defined as the share of loans in foreclosure plus the share of loans delinquent 90 or more days, rose one percentage point to 11.4 percent in December from year earlier levels, according to data compiled by three groups, the Center for Housing Policy, the Urban Institute and Local Initiatives Support. The rate is also above the nation’s serious delinquency rate.”); see also Metropolitan Delinquency and Foreclosure Data, March 2012,, (follow “Full Metropolitan Delinquency and Foreclosure Rate Data [Excel]” hyperlink) (last updated Nov. 7, 2012, 3:12 PM) (reporting a serious delinquency rate of 11.7 percent in March 2012, compared to 10.7 percent in March 2011 in the “New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA” area).

3. See Victor Bach & Tom Waters, Cmty. Serv. Soc’y, Making the Rent: Before and After the Recession: Rent-Income Pressures on New York City Tenants, 2005 to 2011, at 3 (2012), available at; Jeremy Reiss & Krista Pletrangelo, Cmty. Serv. Soc’y, The Unheard Third 2009: A Survey of Low-Income New Yorkers: Job Loss, Economic Insecurity, and a Decline in Job Quality 8 (2010), available at; Ann Carrns, The Movement to Put Utility Payments on Credit Reports, N.Y. Times (Oct. 9, 2012, 2:38 PM),; Comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Regarding Consumer Financial Products and Services Offered to Servicemembers, Docket No. CFPB-2011-0016, 76 Fed. Reg. 54998 (Sept. 6, 2011), Nat’l Consumer L. Ctr. (Sept. 20, 2011), servicemembers-9-20-2011.pdf.

4. See Debbie Gruenstein Bocian et al., Ctr. for Responsible Lending, Lost Ground, 2011: Disparities in Mortgage Lending and Foreclosures 4 (2011), available at; Claire M. Renzetti, Nat’l Online Res. Ctr. on Violence Against Women, Economic Stress and Domestic Violence 5 (2009), available at Stress.pdf; Nicolas P. Retsinas & Eric S. Belsky, Examining the Unexamined Goal, in Low-Income Home Ownership: Examining the Unexamined 1 (Nicolas P. Retsinas & Eric S. Belsky eds., 2002), available at ership/low_income_homeownership_chapter; Elsa Brenner, Foreclosures Creep Upmarket, N.Y. Times (Oct. 4, 2008),

5. Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Servs. in N.Y., Report to Chief Judge of the State of New York 1 (2010) [hereinafter 2010 Task Force Report], available at

6. Ann Pfau, State of New York Unified Court Sys., 2010 Report of the Chief Administrator of the Courts 11 (2010),; see also Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Servs. in N.Y., Report to the Chief Judge of the State of New York 16 (2011) [hereinafter 2011 Task Force Report], available at ForceREPORT_web.pdf.

7. 2010 Task Force Report, supra note 5, at 1.

8. Id.

9. Id.

10. See id. at 12–13.

11. See id. at 4.

12. See, e.g., id. at 1, 12.

13. 2011 Task Force Report, supra note 6, app. 12, available at pdf [hereinafter 2011 Task Force Report Appendices] (quoting written submission from Hon. David Kaplan, Housing Court Judge, New York County).

14. Id.

15. Id. app. 11 (quoting written submission from Hon. Lori Currier Woods, Acting Supreme Court Justice and Family Court Judge, Orange County).

16. The Chief Judge’s Hearing on Civil Legal Services: Hearing Before the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Second Department 44–45 (2011) (statement of David Boies, Chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP).

17. 2011 Task Force Report Appendices, supra note 13, app. 13 (quoting written submission from Hon. Michael V. Coccoma, Supreme Court Justice, Otsego County, and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Courts Outside the City of New York).

18. Funding Cuts Expected to Result in Nearly 750 Fewer Staff Positions at LSC-Funded Programs, Legal Servs. Corp. (Aug. 15, 2012),; see also Alan W. Houseman, The Crisis in Civil Legal Aid, Am. Const. Soc’y Blog (Sept. 25, 2012),

19. See, e.g., Todd Ruger, Once More, LSC Budget at Risk; Congressional Funding Proposals for Legal Services Corp. Vary Widely, Nat’l L.J., July 2, 2012, at 15; Statement by John G. Levi, Chairman, Board of Directors, Legal Services Corporation, November 17, 2011, Legal Servs. Corp. (Nov. 17, 2011),; see also Catherine Ho, Budget Cut Hits Region’s Legal Aid Groups, Wash. Post (Feb. 12, 2012), cut-hits-regions-legal-aid-groups/2012/02/07/gIQASdyR9Q_story.html; Molly McDonough, Legal Aid Providers Expected to Lay Off 350 Lawyers, Scale Back Services, A.B.A. J. (Aug. 16, 2012, 10:00 AM),

20. 2010 Task Force Report, supra note 5, at 34; 2011 Task Force Report, supra note 6, at 17; see also Mirela Iverac, For More and More Low-Income New Yorkers, Civil Legal Services Are Just Out of Reach, WNYC News (Sept. 30, 2011),

21. See infra notes 25–28 and accompanying text.

22. Resolution 23: Leadership to Promote Equal Justice, Conf. Chief Justs. (Jan. 25, 2001), resol23Leadership.html.

23. S. 6368, 2010 Leg., Reg. Sess. (N.Y. 2010); A. 1621, 2010 Leg., Reg. Sess. (N.Y. 2010).

24. See 2010 Task Force Report, supra note 5.

25. Id. at 20–26.

26. Id.

27. Id. at 22.

28. Id. at 1.

29. Id. at 22.

30. See N.Y. State Unified Court Sys., 2011–12 Judiciary Budget, at v (2010), available at

31. See N.Y. State Unified Court Sys., Budget Fiscal Year April 1, 2012 – March 31, 2013, at iv (2011), available at

32. See, e.g., William Glaberson, Cuts Could Stall Sluggish Courts at Every Turn, N.Y. Times (May 15, 2011),

33. See N.Y. State Unified Court Sys., supra note 31.

34. 2011 Task Force Report, supra note 6, at 5–8; 2011 Task Force Report Appendices, supra note 13, apps. 4–5.

35. See N.Y. State Unified Court Sys., supra note 31, at vii.

36. Am. Bar Ass’n, Recommendation 112A (2006) [hereinafter ABA, Recommendation]. See generally Working Grp. on Civil Right to Counsel, Am. Bar Ass’n, American Bar Association Toolkit for a Right to Counsel in Civil Proceedings (2010), available at

37. See Laura Haring, Panel Is Tasked to Suggest Ways to Enact Pro Bono Requirement, N.Y. L.J. (May 23, 2012),

38. See, e.g., Pro Bono Information for Attorneys, N.Y. St. B. Ass’n, Pro_Bono_Home.htm (last visited Dec. 26, 2012); City Bar Justice Center, N.Y. City B., (last visited Dec. 26, 2012); Pro Bono, Albany County B. Ass’n, (last visited Dec. 26, 2012).

39. See Court Sponsored Volunteer Attorney Program, N.Y. St. Unified Ct. Sys., (last visited Dec. 26, 2012).

40. See Attorney Emeritus Program, N.Y. St. Unified Ct. Sys., (last visited Dec. 26, 2012).

41. See NY CourtHelp—A Website for Unrepresented New Yorkers, N.Y. St. Unified Ct. Sys., (last visited Dec. 26, 2012).

42. See NY CourtHelp—Forms Library, N.Y. St. Unified Ct. Sys., (last updated Nov. 21, 2012).

43. See, e.g., Walk-In Services at the Help Center, N.Y. St. Unified Ct. Sys., (last visited Dec. 26, 2012).

44. Mosi Secret, Judge Details a Rule Requiring Pro Bono Work by Aspiring Lawyers, N.Y. Times, Sept. 20, 2012, at A25.

45. Daniel Wiessner, NJ Court Officials Consider Pro Bono Rule for Aspiring Lawyers, Thomson Reuters News & Insight (Oct. 22, 2012),

46. Editorial, A New Lawyer’s Duty, N.Y. Times, May 2, 2012, at A26.

47. 372 U.S. 335 (1963).

48. Id. at 342.

49. Anthony Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet (1964).

50. 372 U.S. at 344.

51. 316 U.S. 455, 471 (1942).

52. See ABA, Recommendation, supra note 36.

53. See Conference of Chief Justices & Conference of State Court Adm’rs, Resolution 2: In Support of Efforts to Increase Access to Justice, Conf. St. Ct. Admins. (July 30, 2008),

54. See Fact Sheet: Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act (AB 590) (Feuer), Cal. Cts. (Aug. 2011),

55. San Francisco, Cal., Ordinance 45-12 (Feb. 16, 2012), available at; see also Joshua Sabatini, Supervisors Create Program to Provide Counsel in Civil Cases, S.F. Examiner (Feb. 28, 2012, 7:42 PM),

56. See, e.g., Civil Legal Services to the Poor in Texas: Executive Summary, Tex. Access to Just. Comm’n (Sept. 11, 2008),

57. See Chancellor’s Task Force on Civil Gideon, Phila. Bar Ass’n, Preliminary Report, Findings and Recommendations (2009), available at

58. See Bos. Bar Ass’n Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel, The Importance of Representation in Eviction Cases and Homelessness Prevention: A Report on the BBA Civil Right to Counsel Housing Pilots (2012), available at

59. Deuteronomy 16:18–20.