Legal Aid Society


Defenders, Civil Legal Providers Rally to Demand Increased Funding

New York’s leading public defender and civil legal service providers rallied at City Hall this morning, calling for increased funding in the City budget and highlighting the dire impact underfunding has wrought on their ability to meet the needs of low-income New Yorkers.

Not only have chronic underfunding and contracting issues lead to widespread attrition, but if unaddressed this year, New Yorkers will be further marginalized and disconnected from life-saving services, reinforcing bias in the legal system and eroding public safety.

The widespread staffing and dire fiscal crisis of these organizations is due to the City’s failure to address the needs of low-income New Yorkers on multiple fronts.

Year over year, but especially since the pandemic, the rising cost of rent, food, transportation, healthcare, and other necessities have increased tremendously. Compounded by skyrocketing inflation, and the likely return of student loan repayments, the cost of living in New York for public attorneys, social workers, paralegals, benefits counselors, and other administrative, civil, legal, and technical service staff will soon become unbearable.

“Defenders and civil legal services providers are just as much a part of the legal system as the prosecutors, police, corrections, and others in law enforcement,” said Twyla Carter, Attorney-in-Chief and CEO of The Legal Aid Society. “When one side is overwhelmingly funded and one is severely underfunded, people suffer, and injustices flourish, disproportionately affecting low-income New Yorkers of color.

“The City can still do right by our organizations and our clients by prioritizing our needs in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget to ensure that the New Yorkers and the communities we serve receive the legal representation that they need,” she continued.