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City Bar President Testifies at Chief Judge’s Hearing on Civil Legal Services


Eric Friedman
(212) 382-6754
Kathryn Inman

City Bar President Testifies at Chief Judge’s Hearing on Civil Legal Services

New York , September 28, 2010—New York City Bar President Samuel W. Seymour testified today at New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Hearing on Civil Legal Services at the First Department. It was the first of four hearings the Chief Judge has scheduled in response to a dramatic drop in civil legal services funding as a result of the ailing economy.

In his testimony, Seymour referenced the work of the City Bar Justice Center, which trains and supervises pro bono lawyers in providing legal services to low-income individuals facing foreclosure, bankruptcy, homelessness and other issues. “The recession has had a major impact on our work, particularly for clients dealing with debt,” said Seymour. “Our bankruptcy program is busier than ever, the number of consumer debt calls to our hotline have increased 40% in the past few years, and our new foreclosure project has all the work it can handle.”

Seymour’s testimony focused in particular on the legal services needs of New York City’s approximately three million foreign-born residents, most of whom are involved in the City’s economy, but in jobs that don’t pay enough to meet basic needs: “Immigrants face further hurdles in accessing legal services. Our laws and rules are unfamiliar to them, and they lack basic understanding of how to proceed within our legal system….Many immigrants lack the language skills to understand what their legal situation is or explain what they need. All this makes them particularly vulnerable to notaries and others fraudulently claiming to provide legal services, and recently we were called upon by both the New York County District Attorney and the New York State Attorney General to assist immigrant victims of such scams.”

Seymour concluded by emphasizing the difference legal representation—or the absence if it—can make: “For example, among asylum seekers who were not detained at the time of their hearing, those represented by counsel received asylum 39% of the time, but only 14% of those who were unrepresented were successful. For those asylum seekers who were detained, the comparable numbers were 18% and 3%.”

Read the full testimony here:


About the Association

The New York City Bar Association ( was founded in 1870, and since then has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the profession, promoting reform of the law, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.