SENATE RESOLUTION No. 92

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED DECEMBER 6, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator† KEVIN J. O'TOOLE

District 40 (Bergen, Essex and Passaic)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Requests New Jersey Supreme Court require attorneys to perform 50 hours of pro bono service per year or make a monetary contribution to Legal Services of New Jersey.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


A Senate Resolution requesting the New Jersey Supreme Court establish new requirements for pro bono service.

 

Whereas, Since 1795, New Jersey has recognized the necessity of providing free legal services to members of society with limited financial means; and

Whereas, Attorneys in New Jersey have a professional obligation to render this service by providing professional services without charging a fee or for a reduced fee to persons of limited means and to public service and charitable service groups; and

Whereas, Under the existing pro bono system, attorneys are assigned to a computer list each county maintains of all the attorneys eligible for pro bono assignment in that county.† Cases are assigned strictly in order of the list, which is organized alphabetically by attorneys who have not yet received pro bono assignments; and

Whereas, Because the number of pro bono cases and the number of attorneys varies from county to county, there may be significant differences in the number of pro bono assignments undertaken in a year both among attorneys within a county and between attorneys from different counties; and

Whereas, Under the existing system, there is no requirement that attorneys provide a minimum number of hours of public service or undertake a minimum number of pro bono assignments; and

Whereas, Attorneys in 29 other states are currently required to perform a minimum number of hours of pro bono service; 21 of these states require attorneys to render at least 50 hours of service.† Additionally, eight states permit attorneys to make some form of quantified financial contribution to a qualified legal aid organization in lieu of meeting the hourly requirement; and

Whereas, In these difficult financial times, the need for pro bono legal services is as imperative as ever; and

Whereas, The existing system in New Jersey does not adequately work to meet the professional obligation every attorney has to render public service to persons otherwise unable to afford necessary legal services; now, therefore,

 

†††† Be It Resolved by the Senate of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† The Supreme Court of New Jersey is respectfully requested to require that attorneys practicing in the State render a minimum 50 hours of pro bono service per year or, in the alternative, to make a monetary contribution to Legal Services of New Jersey in an amount to be established by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

 

†††† 2.††† Duly authenticated copies of this resolution signed by the President of the Senate and attested by the Secretary thereof, shall be transmitted to the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This resolution respectfully requests that the New Jersey Supreme Court require all attorneys in New Jersey to render at least 50 hours of pro bono service per year or, alternatively, to make a monetary contribution to Legal Services of New Jersey in an amount to be established by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

†††† Under the existing system, pro bono cases are assigned from an alphabetical computer list each county maintains of all the attorneys eligible for pro bono assignment in that county.† Cases are assigned strictly in order of the list.† At the top of the list are attorneys who have had no pro bono assignments.† The Administrative Office of the Courts provides for certain exemptions from pro bono service, such as for attorneys who work full time for a Federal, State, or local government agency and attorneys who work for a legal assistance organization.† Additionally, attorneys who certify that they have performed at least 25 hours of pro bono service per year with certain legal assistance organizations are exempt from the pro bono requirement.

†††† Attorneys in New Jersey are not required to undertake a certain number of pro bono assignments or serve a minimum number of hours per year.† Because the number of attorneys and the number of pro bono cases varies from county to county, an attorney may be required to complete two cases a year or one case every two years.

†††† Attorneys in 29 other states are currently required to perform a minimum number of hours of pro bono service.† Twenty one of these states require attorneys perform at least 50 hours of service. Eight states permit attorneys to make a quantified financial contribution to a qualified legal aid organization in lieu of meeting the minimum hour requirement.

†††† Since 1795, New Jersey has recognized the need for attorneys to provide free legal services to people of limited financial means, a role underscored by the current Rules of Professional Conduct.† It is the sponsorís belief that, under the current system, many attorneys do not actively seek out opportunities to meet this ongoing professional obligation.† Requiring that all attorneys in New Jersey render at least 50 hours of pro bono service per year or, alternatively, make a monetary contribution to Legal Services of New Jersey will help achieve this end while serving a vulnerable portion of the community.