Senators Hassell-Thompson and Sampson Hold Public Hearings To Address Civil Legal Service Funding Crisis

December 15, 2009

New Yorkers Facing Mounting Legal Crises Meet Senate Leaders

Committed to meeting the needs of individuals and families facing foreclosure, domestic violence, eviction proceedings and other civil legal issues, New York State Senators John Sampson and Ruth Hassell-Thompson will be holding a joint hearing on Wednesday, December 16 in Buffalo to explore the need for reform of the civil legal service system to ensure that core justice values are protected for all New Yorkers in this difficult economy.

Testimony will be heard from individuals regarding the devastating and long lasting effects on New Yorkers who rely on civil legal services that may no longer have access to them due to the financial crisis that the New York State Interest On Lawyer Account Fund (IOLA) is facing.  Testimony will also be heard to gather suggestions on how to restructure civil legal service funding in the future.

The IOLA Fund – which harnesses private funds, mainly from attorney escrow accounts, is used as a means to provide additional financial support to civil legal service organizations. When the economy is depressed and interest rates are low, civil legal services face devastating cuts just as the need for services dramatically rises.

The first hearing was held in Manhattan last week and an additional hearing will be held on Thursday, January 7, 2010 in Albany.


     ·         Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, Chair of the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction and Conference Chairwoman

·         Senator Antoine M. Thompson, Chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee

·         Senator William T. Stachowski, Chair of the Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee

·         Honorable Joanne Winslow, Supreme Court, 8th Judicial District

·         Honorable Joseph Nosser, Family Court, Monroe County

·         Honorable Tom Amadeo, Chief Judge, Buffalo City Court

·         Honorable George H. Lowe, Federal Magistrate, Onondaga County

·         Mayor of Buffalo, Byron Brown

·         Stephen Brooks, Esq., General Counsel of the IOLA Fund of the State of New York

·         Robert Convissar, Esq., President, Erie County Bar Association

·         Susan Schultz Laluk, Esq., President-Elect, Monroe County Bar Association

·         Lenore Banks, Judiciary Chair, League of Women Voters, New York State

·         Karen Nicolson, Esq., Chief Executive Officer, Legal Services for the Elderly

·         Bryan Hetherington, Esq., Chief Counsel, Empire Justice Center

·         Ken Perri, Esq.,  Executive Director, Legal Assistance of Western New York

·         Bill Hawkes, Esq., Executive Director, Neighborhood Legal Services, Buffalo

·         Lew Papenfuse, Esq., Executive Director, Farmworkers Legal Services of New York

·         Carla Palumbo, Rochester City Council and staff member Legal Aid of Rochester

·         Stuart Harper, Executive Director, Buffalo City Mission

·         Sister Mary Anne Weldon, Neighborhood Legal Services

·         Professor Anthony Szczgiel, Esq., Clinical Instructor and Professor of University of Buffalo Law School

·         Melinda Disare, Esq., Partner Damon and Morey

·         David L. Edmunds, Jr., Esq., Partner Phillips Lytel

·         Other leaders from legal, academic, business, government and community groups

·         Civil Legal Service Recipients


University of Buffalo Law School

John Lord O’Brian Hall

Letro Courtroom



 Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 10:00 A.M.


Note: This hearing can be viewed live at