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Dolan Makes Case For Low-Income NYers' Civil Court Needs

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TWC News: Dolan Makes Case For Low-Income NYers' Civil Court Needs
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Cardinal Timothy Dolan testified Monday at a public hearing aimed at gaining some much needed state funding to help low income New Yorkers. NY1's Kristen Shaughnessy filed the following report.

In a courtroom with a church-like ambience Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Monday spoke about the most vulnerable New Yorkers who often turn to the church for help.

"More often than not they've got problems...that they were terminated from their job without just cause, that maybe their documentation that they lost as legal immigrants and are now going to be deported, maybe they were evicted or victims of domestic abuse and they don't know where to go to seek some type of civil protection," Dolan said.

Dolan was the first witness Monday before Judge Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. Lippman is holding hearings to determine what more is needed to help the state's neediest when they have to work their way through the civil court system.

In the last fiscal year, $12.5 million went to support legal services for the poor. This year, it's $25 million. Judge Lippman's goal is $100 million. He said to expand the effort, would-be lawyers now have to contribute 50 hours of pro bono work before being admitted to the bar. It's a move Dolan applauded.

"Boy if we could systematize that. If we could make that just an expectation that society has of our competent and selfless attorneys. I think we would be on the way to it," Dolan said.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also testified. She said with so many people hit hard by the recession now is the time to push this issue to the forefront.

"Every New Yorker knows they're lucky to be employed if they are and it could have been them who is unemployed," Quinn said. "So the need and the idea of the need for more free legal services people understand it. Cause they know all of us are this close to that being us."

Judge Lippman will hold two more hearings this week. He will then send a report to the state legislature: A push to get more funding and to make sure each New Yorker really does have an equal chance to be heard in civil court.

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