New York Focus: Governor Hochul Sparks Outcry With Proposed Cash Transfer From Legal Aid Fund

February 7, 2024

Legislative, News

Image shows a NYLPI sign on the steps of New York's Tweed Courthouse in Lower Manhattan

NEW YORK FOCUS | FEBRUARY 2024

Legal advocates have spoken out against Governor Kathy Hochul following the announcement of a proposed transfer of $100 million from New York’s Interest on Lawyer Account (IOLA) fund, which provides support for low-income New Yorkers to receive legal aid in civil cases. Criticisms leveraged against the Governor’s announcement emphasize that not only would the transfer have disastrous effects on vital resources for low-income populations, but the transfer may also be illegal as it is paid through private interest — not tax dollars.

“Each year, the Interest on Lawyer Account, or IOLA, fund, provides tens of millions of dollars to fund legal help for New Yorkers who can’t afford it. According to the fund’s director, Hochul’s budget proposal would remove about a third of the cash it has available, imperiling its financial health.

Unlike criminal defendants, civil defendants and plaintiffs aren’t guaranteed the right to an attorney, so the fund covers legal aid in hundreds of thousands of civil cases a year. With the fund now under threat, legal organizations that benefit from its grants warn they may have to cut services.”

NYLPI has signed a letter as a member of the LEAP Coalition and Legal Services Alliance calling on Governor Kathy Hochul to undo the sweep of IOLA funds. “With IOLA’s vital support, our agencies provide free civil legal services that help New York’s neediest individuals and families access the essentials of life: food, shelter, safety, and health.”

Read the letter and press release here.

Read coverage on the proposed IOLA fund transfer from New York Focus.

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