Tuesday, February 11, 2014

State of the Judiciary 2014


Another day, another chance to attend a speech by a major criminal justice figure in New York.  This time the venue was the Court of Appeals in Albany, where New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman delivered his annual state of the judiciary address.  (In the photo above, you can see the back of my head in the foreground on the right side of the picture.)

The focus of the speech, which is sure to garner headlines in the New York Times tomorrow, was Lippman's continued effort to improve the provision of civil legal services for the poor in New York.   In past years, Lippman has focused on documenting the gap in access to justice and reserving money in the judiciary budget to help make up for funding shortfalls among civil legal service providers.

This year, Lippman was particularly creative -- he sought to address the crisis in civil legal services while solving a couple of other problems at the same time.  He will launch a new program (Pro Bono Scholars) that will enable selected law students to sit for the bar in February of their third year.  Instead of taking classes in their final semester, these students would then perform full-time pro-bono work in order to prepare them to enter the legal market.  If it works, the program should bring additional manpower to tackling the legal problems of the poor, while significantly reforming legal education and helping to instill an ethic of service in young lawyers.  A win-win-win situation.