Top legal experts will address the need for counsel for the poor

Release Date: September 26, 2013 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. – Most people are familiar with the made-popular-by-TV phrase “you have a right to a lawyer.” Fifty years ago this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that criminal defendants had the right to counsel, at government expense, if they couldn’t afford one.

Now a similar argument is being made on behalf of low-income people who face civil court cases – actions that may result in their being evicted from their homes, denied custody of their children or affect their basic human needs.

Access to legal services for the poor has been a signature initiative for Hon. Jonathan Lippman, chief judge of New York State’s highest court, the Court of Appeals. Now Lippman and other influential legal minds in the state are joining in a panel discussion detailing the critical need for legal services among indigent New Yorkers.

The program, called “Why We Need a Right to Counsel in Civil Matters Where Basic Human Needs Are at Stake,” will be broadcast statewide from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 3. It follows a public hearing from 11a.m. to 2 p.m. at the University at Buffalo Law School in which Lippman and others will hear testimony about the unmet needs for civil legal services in the state, and what it will take to meet those needs.

The public is invited to view the presentation in the Cellino & Barnes Conference Center, on the fifth floor of the UB Law School’s home, John Lord O’Brian Hall on UB’s North Campus.

After pre-taped greetings from Lippman and David Schraver, president of the New York State Bar Association, the live panel discussion will include these participants:

  • Fern Fisher, deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City courts and director of the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program.
  • Bryan Hetherington, chief counsel for the Empire Justice Center.
  • Martha Davis, a professor at Northeastern University Law School.
  • John Pollock, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel.
  • Andrew Scherer, senior fellow at the Furman Center of New York University Law School, who will moderate the discussion.

The broadcast discussion is being sponsored by the New York State Bar Association and a consortium of 19 law schools, including the UB Law School.

Following the broadcast, a panel of local experts will continue the discussion. Participants in that program will include:

  • Melinda Saran ’86, the UB Law School’s vice dean for student affairs.
  • Keisha Williams of the Western New York Law Center, who will serve as moderator.
  • Lauren Breen ’89, associate clinical professor of the UB Law School
  • Daniel Webster ’08 of Legal Services for the Elderly, Disabled or Disadvantaged of Western New York.
  • David Schopp ’82, chief executive officer of the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo.
  • Joy McDuffie, a housing counselor at the Western New York Law Center.

Since its founding in 1887, the UB Law School – the State University of New York system’s only law school – has established an excellent reputation and is widely regarded as a leader in legal education. Its cutting-edge curriculum provides both a strong theoretical foundation and the practical tools graduates need to succeed in a competitive global marketplace, wherever they choose to practice. A special emphasis on interdisciplinary studies, public service and opportunities for hands-on clinical education makes the UB Law School unique among the nation’s premier public law schools.

Media Contact Information

Ilene Fleischmann
Vice Dean for Alumni, PR and Communications
Law School
Tel: 716-645-7888