On Feb. 24, in an editorial called “Support Legal Aid By Keeping Filing Fees In Place” we urged that the General Assembly preserve the source of legal aid funding it established in 2009 by enacting Senate Bill 31. Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed the measure to maintain $5 million in annual legal aid support from filing fee increases by eliminating the sunset provision which will otherwise automatically terminate that funding.
Last week, public hearings were held before the General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. The Connecticut Bar Association endorsed the removal of the sunset provision. All four of Connecticut’s four minority bar associations — the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association and the South Asian Bar Association of Connecticut — have joined together in their support of Senate Bill 31. The Judicial Branch, which is the agency that would actually lose funds as a result of this bill, is endorsing it because of its significant impact on legal aid services.
It is rare to find an issue on which the entire legal community is in agreement. Legal professionals do not speak in absolutes often, but we say this to the General Assembly – there is no valid reason to oppose this bill and every principled reason to support it. The General Assembly should act expeditiously to approve SB 31 and lock in this funding.•