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10.03.11 Lippman Testimony - MM

10.03.11 Lippman Testimony - MM

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Published by Nick Reisman

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Published by: Nick Reisman on Oct 03, 2011
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10/03/2011

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TESTIMONY BY MARTIN J. MACK,EXECUTIVE DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERALTASK FORCE TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CIVIL LEGAL SERVICESTO BE DELIVERED OCTOBER 3, 2011 AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY 
GOOD MORNING, AND THANK YOU FOR INVITING ATTORNEY GENERALSCHNEIDERMAN TO ADDRESS TODAY'S HEARING ON ACCESS TO CIVIL LEGALSERVICES IN NEW YORK STATE. UNFORTUNATELY, HE WAS UNABLE TO ATTEND, BUT I AM HONORED TO SPEAK ON THIS CRITICAL ISSUE ON BEHALFOF OUR OFFICE. ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHNEIDERMAN WOULD LIKE TO THANK JUDGES PFAU AND CARDONA, AND OUR NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT VINCENT DOYLE, FOR THEIR LEADERSHIP. AND HE’D ESPECIALLY LIKE TOTHANK CHIEF JUDGE LIPPMAN FOR PROVIDING THE IMPETUS FOR THESEHEARINGS. JUDGE LIPPMAN'S EFFORTS ON THESE ISSUES HAVE BEENNOTHING SHORT OF EXTRAORDINARY.THE HISTORY OF THE LEGAL SERVICES MOVEMENT IN OUR COUNTRY BEGAN AS A REFLECTION OF THE WIDESPREAD RECOGNITION BY THE LEGALPROFESSION THAT WE HAD A SPECIAL OBLIGATION TO ENSURE ACCESS TOJUSTICE WAS AVAILABLE TO ALL, REGARDLESS OF ECONOMIC STATUS.FOR DECADES, LEGAL SERVICES LAWYERS HAVE HELPED TO ACHIEVE MAJOR  VICTORIES IN EVERY ASPECT OF THE FIGHT TO PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF THEDISADVANTAGED. THEY BROUGHT AND WON CASES AFFIRMING THECONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF THE POOR AND HELPED THEM ENFORCE THEIR RIGHTS TO GOVERNMENT BENEFITS, THE HONEST TREATMENT OFCONSUMERS AND ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE. AND THEY ADVOCATED FOR LEGISLATIVE CHANGES WHEN THE COURTS COULDN'T HELP.
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THIS ALL BEGAN TO CHANGE IN THE 1980'S WHEN THE LEGAL SERVICECORPORATION SAW ITS FUNDING SLASHED AND ITS MANDATE ATTACKED.THE BUDGET FOR LSC HAS BEEN CUT, AT THE SAME TIME THE NEED FOR ITSSERVICES HAS GROWN. TODAY, THE RECESSION HAS CAUSED THE RANKS OFTHE WORKING POOR AND THESE NEEDS TO GROW EVEN FASTER. WHEN THELOSS OF A JOB, FORECLOSURE ON ONE'S HOME, OR CUSTODY OF ONE'S CHILDIS AT STAKE, JUSTICE DEMANDS NOTHING LESS THAN ADEQUATEREPRESENTATION. AS THE TASK FORCE TO EXPAND ACCESS TO CIVIL LEGALSERVICES SO CLEARLY AND ABLY ILLUSTRATED IN ITS REPORT TO CHIEFJUDGE LIPPMAN LAST YEAR, WE ARE FALLING SHORT OF THIS IDEAL IN NEW  YORK STATE.NATIONWIDE, THE LSC ESTIMATES THAT FOR EVERY CLIENT SERVED BY ANLSC-FUNDED PROGRAM, ANOTHER PERSON WHO SEEKS HELP IS TURNEDDOWN BECAUSE OF INSUFFICIENT RESOURCES. HERE IN NEW YORK, THEOFFICE OF COURT ADMINISTRATION ESTIMATES THAT MORE THAN 2.3MILLION NEW YORKERS ARE UNREPRESENTED AS THEY ATTEMPT TONAVIGATE OUR CIVIL JUSTICE SYSTEM. THE FUND FOR MODERN COURTSREPORTS THAT IN 2009, ALMOST 3 MILLION LOW-INCOME NEW YORKERSFACED AT LEAST ONE LEGAL PROBLEM WITHOUT REPRESENTATION, AND 1.2MILLION FACED THREE OR MORE MATTERS WITHOUT ACCESS TO COUNSEL.LET ME FOCUS FOR A MOMENT ON ONE ISSUE THAT OUR OFFICE IS WORKINGON RESOLVING - THE MORTGAGE CRISIS THAT HAS LED TO TENS OFTHOUSANDS OF NEW YORKERS BATTLING TO KEEP THEIR HOMES. EVERY FORECLOSURE REPRESENTS A THREAT TO SOMEONE’S FUTURE.NEW YORKERS THREATENED WITH FORECLOSURE HAVE ONLY THE PROMISEOF A FAIR LEGAL SYSTEM TO PROTECT THEM FROM BEING RENDEREDHOMELESS AND HAVING THEIR AMERICAN DREAM DIE AN UNJUST, ANDUNTIMELY DEATH. AND YET WE KNOW THAT ALL TOO OFTEN THE SYSTEM IS
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NOT FAIR.TOO MANY HOMEOWNERS HAVE TO “GO IT ALONE” WHEN FACING A FORECLOSURE ACTION BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF LEGAL COUNSEL. EVEN WITH SPECIAL STATE LEGISLATIVE FUNDING FOR FORECLOSUREPREVENTION SERVICES AND THE SURGE OF
PRO BONO
ASSISTANCE, ACROSSTHE STATE, 44 PERCENT OF NEW YORKERS FACING FORECLOSURE LACK LEGAL REPRESENTATION.THE LACK OF INDIVIDUAL REPRESENTATION IN FORECLOSURE ACTIONS ISONE REASON WE HAVE SEEN SYSTEMIC ABUSES OF THE LEGAL SYSTEM BY LENDERS AND DEBT COLLECTORS. WE’VE ALL HEARD HARROWING TALES OF ABUSES--INCLUDINGFORECLOSURE ACTIONS BROUGHT AGAINST HOMEOWNERS WHO ARE ACTUALLY UP-TO-DATE ON THEIR MORTGAGE PAYMENTS. A RECENT REVIEW OF BANKRUPTCY FILINGS IN THE FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS FOR THESOUTHERN AND EASTERN DISTRICTS OF NEW YORK BY THE
 NEW YORK POST 
FOUND THAT 92% OF CREDITORS ASSERTING THE RIGHT TO FORECLOSE AGAINST BANKRUPT FAMILIES LACKED THE PROPER CHAIN OF TITLE FOR THEPROPERTY THEY WERE SEIZING.FOR EVERY ABUSIVE CASE UNCOVERED, THERE ARE DOZENS UPON DOZENSOF HOMEOWNERS AND, SAD TO SAY, FORMER HOMEOWNERS, WHO HAVEBEEN STEAMROLLED BECAUSE THEY DID NOT HAVE ADEQUATEREPRESENTATION. ABUSES SUCH AS ROBO-SIGNING, SEWER SERVICE, ANDIMPROPER LEGAL DOCUMENTATION ONLY HAPPEN BECAUSE LENDERS ANDDEBT COLLECTORS ARE ABLE TO ASSUME THAT THE OVERWHELMINGMAJORITY OF HOMEOWNERS WON’T HAVE ATTORNEYS TO FIGHT BACK.THE RECENT REFORMS ENACTED BY JUDGE LIPPMAN AND JUDGE PFAU-REQUIRING LAWYERS FOR LENDERS TO AFFIRM THAT THEY HAVE TAKEN
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