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Fall 2014, President Fitzpatrick

posted Sep 22, 2014, 6:24 AM by Pete Weinman   [ updated Jun 22, 2015, 7:39 AM by Lou Bara ]

The Annual summer meeting of the New York State Bar Association was held this past June in Cooperstown, New York.  The hot topic before the Association’s legislative body, the House of Delegates, centered around the mandatory pro bono reporting requirements.

As previously reported to you, the courts have enacted Section 118.1(e)(14) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, which requires lawyers to state under oath in their biennial registration form the number of hours spent providing voluntary legal services to poor and underserved clients, as well as the amount of voluntary financial contributions made to organizations primarily or substantially engaged in providing legal services to the poor and underserved.  This rule was enacted without any input or suggestions from the NYSBA, or any of the county bar associations for that matter.

At the June meeting, a prior resolution of the NYSBA Executive Committee was again brought before the House of Delegates for further debate, and a potential vote.  Said resolution states, in relevant part, as follows:  “that the Association reiterates and reaffirms its opposition to mandatory reporting of pro bono services and mandatory reporting of financial contributions to organizations engaged in providing legal services to the poor and underserved and shall continue to express its opposition to such mandatory reporting, and shall pursue such other and further actions as may be appropriate for the purpose of achieving the repeal of Rule 118.1(e)(14) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator.”

After further discussion and debate, the vote on the resolution was ultimately postponed until the November 1, 2014 meeting at the urging and request of NYSBA President Glenn Lau-Kee, who informed the delegates that he was engaged in on-going discussions and/or negotiations with Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and Chief Administrative Judge A. Gail Prudenti, in an attempt to resolve the parties’ impasse on this very sensitive subject matter.

As previously stated, we, as lawyers, truly understand the serious unmet needs of the indigent, and give of ourselves voluntarily on a regular basis, in some form or another.  However, our desire to provide volunteer services should not be subject to the pressures of mandatory reporting requirements.

 I intend to keep you all informed of any further developments concerning this issue as I become privy to same. 

 

Respectfully Submitted,

Christopher J. Fitzpatrick

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