2011-01-20 / Local & State

Chief Justice Says Pa. Faces ‘Legal Aid Crisis’

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania’s chief justice said Friday he wants the state’s 70,000 lawyers to pitch in to address what he describes as a crisis in the legal aid system regarding civil matters.

Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille released a letter he sent Jan. 7 asking every lawyer to take on at least one new pro bono matter or continue volunteer through a legal aid provider or other organized program.

“The need for help among the poor to access justice is so significant that the legal community cannot wait for the funding deficiencies to be remedied,’’ Castille said.

He said the economic downturn appears to have increased demand for such services, but about half the people who show up at legal aid offices and quality for assistance are turned down because there aren’t enough resources.

Castille said about 10 percent of Pennsylvania attorneys currently volunteer their legal expertise in some form every year.

“The resources that would be available to those with the inability to access legal services in our commonwealth if every lawyer stepped forward are staggering,’’ Castille told the state’s lawyers.

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