Support Better Legal Aid for the Poor

Gavel and american flag

Target: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Goal: Support proposed reforms to improve legal services for the poor

New reforms starting up in New York aim to help the indigent obtain legal representation while fostering civic-mindedness among law students. Third year law students will be able to take the bar exam earlier on the condition that they undertake free legal work for the poor. Working under the supervision of experienced attorneys, students will have the opportunity to experience full-time practical training, which could make them more competitive in the job market. The program builds on both current law school internships and Judge Lippman’s efforts to foster law schools’ and students’ engagement in helping lower income communities, according to The New York Times.

Along the same lines, another pilot project provides legal assistance to people who cannot afford a lawyer and lack an alternative form of representation. For cases such as housing, consumer debt, and more, trained non-lawyers called “court navigators” will be able to sit alongside unrepresented litigants and respond to a judge’s questions, without addressing the court directly and thereby assuming the role of an actual attorney. On another level, Judge Lippman seeks to change discriminatory laws that block people with misdemeanor convictions from obtaining housing, employment, or professional licenses or receiving government benefits. Excluding persons guilty of crimes such as sexual offense, public corruption, or drunk driving, the proposed reform will make it so misdemeanors will not appear on the records of people undergoing background checks, provided they are free of other criminal convictions and have not been arrested for ten years.

By signing the petition below, you can applaud these forward-thinking reforms and ask that New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, and the New York State Legislature, help put them into practice.


Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am writing to bring your attention to new reforms aimed at both bettering legal services for the poor and removing barriers for people with misdemeanor convictions from being active citizens. Proposed by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, one new program engages third-year law students under the supervision of experienced attorneys in representing the indigent. For their services, students may take the bar exam earlier (in February instead of July) and gain valuable experience to make them more competitive in the job market.

Similar reforms enable trained non-lawyers to assist those who cannot afford an attorney, and address harmful restrictions preventing persons with misdemeanors from obtaining housing, employment, or professional licenses or receiving government benefits. These proposals can help us support our law students, assist the indigent, and boost employment. I urge you to lead the way in putting these plans into action. You have the power to effect positive change on many levels.


[Your Name Here]

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