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Notes and Renderings

A Civil Action: Ensuring Legal Representation for the Poor

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GavelAnnouncing his first major initiative since becoming chief judge of the State of New York, Jonathan Lippman ’68 introduced a proposal in May to ensure that poor people in civil cases have access to lawyers. “I am not talking about a single initiative, pilot project, or temporary program,” Lippman said at the time, “but what I believe must be a comprehensive, multifaceted, systemic approach to providing counsel to the indigent in civil cases.”

To advance the proposal, Lippman created the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York and appointed Helaine Barnett ’64, former president of Legal Services Corporation, as chairwoman. The 28-person task force also includes Steven Banks ’81 and Michael Rothenberg ’91. Lippman attended the first of a series of hearings across the state, in Rochester in June, to assess the unmet needs. “For the poor, you can’t tell me that adequate civil legal help isn’t every bit as important as their health care and their education,” Lippman said at that hearing. “As lawyers, as judges…our constitutional mission is to provide equal justice under the law. If we’re not going to do it, who is?”

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