Liaison to Judiciary
Representatives of PLAN, Inc. and from the PLAN programs consistently act as liaisons to the judiciary, at the county level and with the statewide judiciary. Judges act as impartial decision-makers in disputes before them. They also seek input from the bar, and from legal aid lawyers, in matters of importance before the Courts. Some examples of ways in which legal aid representatives interact with the Court are:
- Collaboration with Judges and bar associations to help set up well-developed plans for the involvement of lawyers, offering their pro bono (free) legal help, since legal aid programs do not have the resources to represent all low income people needing legal help.
- Commenting on proposed rulemaking of the Courts, to be sure the interests of low-income Pennsylvanians are considered when rules are developed.
- Participating in special committees and panels set up by the Courts, to address special concerns, such as how best to deal with the needs of self-represented litigants.
- Working with Judges and the parties in certain types of cases, where cy pres funds need to be distributed. These are left over or undesignated funds from certain types of cases, where not all the funds set aside in the case could be distributed. For more information on cy pres awards, follow this link.
- Accepting special appointments by Judges, where a party in a case is in special need of representation.
It speaks well of the legal aid system that scores of sitting judges in Pennsylvania have backgrounds of involvement in legal services, either as interns during law school, as former attorneys with local programs, or as members of their local legal aid program. Judges understand well and the work of civil legal services programs and are generally pleased when parties to a dispute are able to have representation.