Legal Aid Society


LAS Demands Funding to Ensure Quality Representation for Low-Income New Yorkers

The Legal Aid Society is calling on Governor Kathy Hochul, the New York State Legislature, Mayor Eric Adams, and the New York City Council to increase funding in both the upcoming State and City budgets ensure a high standard of quality legal representation for low-income New Yorkers.

Years of flat funding and mounting operational costs – including technological demands, rent, healthcare, pension and contractually obligated salary increases – have pushed these organizations to the brink, with staff departing at record levels, jeopardizing essential legal services offered to New Yorkers in need. This is also compounded by a byzantine contracting approval and registration process, practices that impose serious financial costs and are unduly onerous.

Most of Legal Aid’s work is either mandated by the United States Constitution or local law, and when funding favors one side of the legal system, it’s Legal Aid’s clients, low-income New Yorkers, who ultimately face the consequences of this imbalance, deprived of the robust legal representation that they need and deserve.

“The fact is that we are a system that promises justice when you’re accused and we’re failing at that because we don’t have the structure and the funding and the support for both sides of the equation, DAs and defenders, to be able to actually do it in the way in which justice would be served,” said Tina Lunogo, Chief Attorney for Legal Aid’s Criminal Defense Practice.

“We are in a fiscal crisis and it’s unsustainable,” said Twyla Carter, attorney-in-chief and CEO of The Legal Aid Society. “The real devastation outside of dollars and cents, it’s our staff and attorneys,” she continued. “They can’t keep doing this. We have folks that have second jobs.”

Eugene Toussaint, part of the Criminal Defense Practice, is one Legal Aid attorney with more than one job, he shares his experience in a new piece in New York Magazine that examines the issue of funding fairness. Read it here.