New lawyers will have to do 50 hours of pro bono work to pass the New York bar

This is one way for the state to help financially-strapped people get the free legal advice they need: a mandate for recent law school grads to volunteer more than four dozen hours to help those who need their counsel the most.

“With this initiative, New York will lead the way in stating loudly and clearly that service to others is an indispensable part of our legal training,” Lippman said today at an annual Law Day event at the state Court of Appeals in Albany.


NY Chief Judge: expect “a lot of layoffs” under new state budget

The state spending plan that was settled over the weekend will bring deep cuts to many areas of state government, not the least of which will be the courts.

The plan slashes $170 million from the Office of Court Administration, which oversees and funds all courts — from village justice courts to the Court of Appeals — and has court officials reeling over how to absorb the cuts. The reduction is roughly 6.3 percent of the court’s current budget.

State lawmakers originally wanted to cut $270 million, or 10 percent. The state’s top judge, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (pictured, above), volunteered to cut $100 million by eliminating, among other services, courthouse child care centers, grants for town and village courts and a program that pays retired judges to work part time as judicial hearing officers.

Now Lippman and other administrative judges around the state must find ways to cut an additional $70 million in spending.

“What is clear is this will be painful by any standards,” he said. “There will be more more spending cuts, layoffs and hardship that anticipated. It will have a tremendous impact on the system.”

It’s too early, Lippman said, to know the number of court employees will lose their jobs, but he said that every kind of court employee will be be targeted for reductions.

“There will absolutely be a workforce reduction with a lot of layoffs,” he said. “There will be very significant cuts. It is a night and day difference between $100 and $170 million.”

Lippman, who lives in Rye Brook, said he didn’t yet know how the cuts statewide would affect the 9th Judicial District, which covers Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties. Different areas of the state would be affected differently, he said.

“We’re going to prioritize and figure out where to go from here,” he said. “I’m an optimist and I’ll do everything I can to keep the judiciary viable and strong. But this is certainly going to test us. This is tough stuff.”

Irvington woman joins state task force on poverty law

We’re back after a brief break with more news from local courts and the legal community in the Lower Hudson Valley ….

Barbara Finkelstein, head of the White Plains-based group Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, will join a statewide task force to expand legal services to low-income New Yorkers in civil cases such as foreclosures, food stamps, unemployment benefits, orders of protection, child support and other civil cases. Finkelstein, an Irvington resident, has been spearheading such efforts for the past 15 years in Westchester and six other counties north of New York City.

According to a news release, Finkelstein will work with judges, law firm partners, union officials, heads of legal services groups and managers of corporate legal departments to raise money for struggling New Yorkers so they can get legal assistance at a time when the demand for such help is on the rise and government funding is dropping.

For more information, go to