Press-Republican

Local News

December 17, 2011

Law Center aids pro bono expansion

PLATTSBURGH — The Rural Law Center in Plattsburgh is aiding the expansion of a free legal appellate assistance program.

The Law Center has teamed up with the New York State Bar Association's Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction and the Legal Project in Albany in providing pro bono expertise and assistance for select appeals cases.

The original pilot program, lasting one year, was available to people who lost civil cases and lacked the financial means to appeal.

Cynthia Feathers, co-chair of the Committee on Courts of Appellate Jurisdiction, said the program flourished, so they decided to continue it indefinitely.

"The pilot was a big success in providing free appellate attorneys for family-law appeals, but we realize there are many other (cases) in which people have urgent needs at the appellate level."

FINANCIALLY DIFFICULT

According to a Bar Association press release, the pilot program originally covered family and matrimonial appeals, but the new program covers appeals for a wide array of topics within those sectors, including education, health, housing and public benefits.

"New Yorkers shouldn't be denied representation on appeal solely because they lack the means to pay," said Bar Association President Vincent Doyle III in the release. "The State Bar Association is proud to be a national leader in providing pro bono legal assistance for appellate cases."

Susan Patnode, executive director of the Rural Law Center, said she worked with Feathers for a number of years discussing such problems.

"(Feathers) and I used to talk about how expensive it was for people to have appeals done."

She said it's a financial burden for those who are of modest means but also for the attorneys handling the appeals case, especially those in a rural area.

"Doing an appeal, if you're a solo practitioner, is not a small thing. It takes a lot of time and a lot of resources ... I thought there was quite a need up here."

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