Urges Legislature to Act on Continued Delivery of Services


(NEW HAVEN, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy today visited New Haven Legal Assistance Association to highlight a legislative proposal he introduced to increase access to legal aid services for low-income citizens and to secure a funding structure that continues Connecticut’s efforts to combat the Civil Justice Gap. The Governor was joined by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Mayor Toni Harp, representatives of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, representatives of legal assistance organizations, and clients who have benefited from legal aid.


“Connecticut legal aid services have been forced to shrink because of pressures on other sources of funding,” said Governor Malloy. “When legal aid agencies have to turn away low-income victims of domestic violence, tenants facing eviction, children with disabilities who are entitled to supportive services, and low-wage workers dealing with dishonest employers who don’t properly pay them, it’s not good for our state. This bill furthers our efforts to achieve equal access to justice for the poor by allowing more of the court filing fee revenues to go to fund legal services for people who otherwise could not afford it. I urge the legislature to act on this bill so that we can address the enormous unmet legal needs of our most vulnerable citizens.”


“This legislation ensures vital resources are available to residents who need them the most—and that access to the judiciary is not compromised for any Connecticut citizen,” said Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman. “The ability to pursue a legal remedy in the protection of our children, families, and communities is a fundamental right of our democracy. I applaud Governor Malloy’s leadership on this issue and echo his comments on legislative action.”


In 2012, court filing fees were increased to help solve the legal services funding crisis. The increased fees are set to expire in 2015, which would force legal aid programs in Connecticut to lay off at least 35 staff members, with a resulting reduction in services to thousands of low-income residents. Currently, 70 percent of the court filing fee increases instituted in 2012 are used to fund legal services for the poor. S.B. 31, An Act Concerning Continued Delivery of Legal Services to the Poor, which Governor Malloy introduced, would allow 95 percent of filing fee revenues to go to fund legal aid services. The remaining 5 percent will continue to go to the Judicial Branch for technology improvements.


S.B. 31 would result in an additional increase in funding to legal aid by an estimated $1.6 million in FY 15 and an increase in funding of approximately $6.3 million in FY 16. The bill also removes the sunset provision in the current law that would cause the fee increases to expire in 2015.


“Securing adequate and reliable funding for legal services to Connecticut’s poor is the core mission of the Connecticut Bar Foundation,” said Peter Arakas, president of the Connecticut Bar Foundation. “Funding for Legal Services has suffered greatly since the financial collapse of 2008, while at the same time the need for legal services has grown significantly.  Governor Malloy’s plan increases funding for legal services, while also removing the looming shadow of the sunset of a major funding source.  The Bar Foundation is very appreciative of the Governor’s strong commitment to meeting the legal needs of the Connecticut’s low income population.”


Shinda DeRosa, of New Haven, stated, “The state’s victim advocate sent me to legal aid after my husband was arrested.  My attorney and the paralegal helped me out a lot.  There’s no way I would have been able to maneuver all the different aspects of my case. It was my attorney who found the reason to get my marriage annulled – my husband was already married to someone else when we got married. I could not have figured that out. If legal aid hadn’t helped me my gas and electric wouldn’t be on and they handled my eviction too.  I would be homeless with four kids without my attorney.  Now she is helping me try to get the child support owed to me, since I am working three jobs to support my kids.”


“Legal aid actually saved my life,” said Debbie Diaz, also of New Haven. “Me and my children were going to be homeless due to a foreclosure on the owner that had nothing to do with me.  The day I was introduced to legal aid I was in court with my newborn, and about to be put in the street.  I had put all of my belongings in garbage bags before going to court, but I had no place to go. I was in tears because the bank’s attorney told me I would only have five days to move.  I found the legal aid attorney in court and it turns out that the eviction was not even legal. Thanks to her, I did not have to move out and my children and I are still in the apartment.”

By Alex

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