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Giving the poor their day in court

October 06, 2009

Re "(Penny) wise justice," Editorial, Sept. 25

We applaud The Times' support of the proposed Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act, which would provide funding for legal assistance to the poor by dedicating certain court fees to that purpose. Connecticut recently enacted similar legislation, and we hope that California follows suit.

Historically, Connecticut funded civil legal services -- including for domestic violence victims, abused elders and families about to lose their abodes -- primarily through Interest on Lawyers' Trust Accounts, but this funding source has fallen precipitously in the present economic downturn. The funding crisis threatened all of the state's taxpayers: When people lack legal counsel, cases drag on without settlement and demand for social services (such as emergency shelters) increases.

We hope California follows Connecticut's example in ensuring a secure funding base for legal services that will provide longtime benefits and justice to its citizens.

Robert Post

and Kate Stith

New Haven, Conn.

The writers are the dean and a professor at Yale Law School.

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