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The New York Law Journal has asked us the timeless “If you had one wish” question with the limitation that the wish be used to improve the quality of justice in New York State. Respectfully, this question is too easy because of the current crisis in the compensation of lawyers assigned to represent poor people pursuant to �18-B of the County Law. If I had one wish I would use it to fund an increase in 18-B rates. Without this increase, the right to counsel we afford to poor people when their most important interests are at stake will remain a cruel joke. Without this increase the very functioning of the judicial system in key areas like criminal law enforcement and domestic violence and child abuse prevention will continue to break down. The current situation is a disgrace. Because the New York Law Journal asked too easy a question, I am going to ask for a second wish. However, the second wish is almost as obvious as the first. It makes no sense to be cutting back government funding for legal services for the poor right now. Sept. 11 hit New York City hard. New Yorkers have been wonderfully generous to the victims of Sept. 11 and their families. But when a crisis hits, it also especially hurts families whose economic situation leaves them no margin of safety. To avoid homelessness and provide basic necessities, these families and individuals may need legal help to resist eviction and secure the assistance the law provides. The problem is compounded by the fact that for some, the time limit for assistance established as a part of welfare reform is about to expire. These families may be about to fall through the safety net and are therefore in urgent need of legal help – despite this being the worst possible time to cut back government funding for legal services, which is exactly what the governor and the mayor are proposing. The City Bar’s Executive Committee recently called on them, the State Legislature and the City Council to restore the cutbacks. My second wish would be to see this happen. Because I had no real choice about my second wish, I am asking for a third wish. Three wishes are traditional. As I see it, however, it is equally obvious what must be my third wish. Following Sept. 11, there has been a fantastic outpouring of pro bono legal services from the New York bar. However there is a need for still more pro bono help. Estimates are that, on average, New York lawyers provide about 12 hours of pro bono assistance a year. My estimate is that if we could increase that average to about 40 hours per year, we could, in conjunction with a reasonable amount of government funding, make a credible argument that we are meeting the basic need. The City Bar recently established the City Bar Pro Bono Society to recognize members who in the prior year provided 100 or more hours of free legal services to individuals or groups unable to pay or in response to a civic emergency. As of now, about 500 members of the association are members of the City Bar Pro Bono Society. They are identified on our Web site at www.abcny.org. My third wish is that for 2002 we increase significantly the amount of pro bono work done by New York lawyers and also double the number of members of the association who are members of the City Bar Pro Bono Society. Evan A. Davis is president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

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