Fighting Poverty, Closing the Justice Gap
Tonight marked the official launch of Poverty Justice Solutions, our new initiative that seeks to achieve multiple goals simultaneously: preventing eviction (and the resulting economic hardship), improving access to justice in New York City Housing Court, strengthening local legal service providers, and encouraging an ethic of service among law school graduates...plus a few others that I'm probably forgetting.
The project is the product of a partnership between the Center for Court Innovation, New York State Court System, Robin Hood Foundation, New York City Human Resources Administration, Mayer Brown LLP, and numerous legal service providers. Twenty newly-minted attorneys will receive a two-year fellowship to represent indigent clients in Housing Court. (Many are graduates of the pro bono scholars program initiated by New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.) Along the way, we will provide them with special educational opportunities above and beyond the training they receive from their host organizations. Our hope is that this group will develop not just into first-rate attorneys, but the next generation of leaders who will advance the field of civil justice.
In his remarks at tonight's gathering, Judge Lippman placed Poverty Justice Solutions in the context of the battle to close the "justice gap" -- the staggering numbers of poor New Yorkers who must go to court to address fundamental issues related to their housing, or their families, or their jobs, without the benefit of legal representation. Twenty new lawyers won't fix this problem by themselves, of course, but we hope that when combined with increased funding for legal services from the city and the state and other innovative programs like the Immigrant Justice Corps, we can make a significant dent.
Here's a link to a piece in the New York Law Journal about Poverty Justice Solutions.