PA Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Public Hearing on Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent

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The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee held a Public Hearing entitled, Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent: Have We Achieved Equal Access to Justice? on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 8E-B in the East Wing of the Capitol Building in Harrisburg.  Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Montgomery, Bucks) chaired the hearing.

The purpose of the public hearing was to explore and create awareness of the current state and scope of the unmet need for civil legal services by low-income Pennsylvanians confronting legal problems involving basic human needs.

The committee heard from a variety of witnessed including low-income Pennsylvanians and the lawyers who help them. Others testifying included community and business leaders and judges.

Public interest agency clients with serious legal problems impacting their basic human needs and those of their families – individuals without access to an attorney or who otherwise could not have been helped without access to an attorney – shared their personal stories of struggle at the hearing.

Additionally, key stakeholders testified regarding the legal community’s ethical obligations to the civil side of justice and discussed the adverse impact of the growing civil justice gap, including the economic and social harm (direct and/or indirect) when critical legal needs are unmet as well as the economic and social benefits to the community when such needs are met.

The 13,000-member Philadelphia Bar Association and 28,000-member Pennsylvania Bar Association are among the organizations that are part of a broad-based “Civil Legal Justice Coalition” created to work collaboratively on exploring strategies to improve access to justice.  The Honorary Chair of the Coalition is Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille.

Those testifying at the hearing included:

  • Charles Cuff, Harrisburg
    MidPenn Legal Services Client
     
  • Rhodia D. Thomas, Esq.
    Executive Director,
    and
    Shana Walter, Esq., Staff Attorney
    MidPenn Legal Services
     
  • Matthew Holland (Presented by Danna Rich-Collins, Paralegal)
    North Penn Legal Services Client
     
  • Lurnetta Young
    MidPenn Legal Services Client
     
  • Thomas G. Wilkinson, Jr., Esq.
    President
    Pennsylvania Bar Association
     
  • Samuel W. Milkes, Esq.
    Executive Director
    Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network
     
  • Linda Yarison
    North Penn Legal Services Client
     
  • Hon. Todd A. Hoover
    President Judge
    Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas
     
  • George H. Dingler, New Holland
    MidPenn Legal Services Client 
     
  • William F. Rothman
    RSR Realtors
     
  • Elaine Strokoff
    Executive Director
    Downtown Daily Bread
     
  • Hon. Chester T. Harhut
    Senior Judge
    Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas
     
  • Claire Smith, Williamsport
    North Penn Legal Services Client 
     
  • Andrew F. Susko, Esq.
    Chair, Pennsylvania IOLTA Board of Directors

​Written Testimony:

  • Arthur Gomersall, Lebanon County
    MidPenn Legal Services Client

Video and audio recordings of the hearing are available on the website of the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee at http://pasenategop.com/committees/judiciary/2013/050713/agenda.htm.

A complete witness list and transcripts of the testimony presented at the hearing are available at the links below.

A second Senate Judiciary Committee Public Hearing on Civil Legal Representation of the Indigent will be held on Thursday, May 23 at 9:30 a.m. at the Philadelphia Bar Association, 1101 Market Street, in the 11th floor Conference Center.

Witness List and Testimony
Testimony of the Honorable Todd A Hoover