RESOLUTION OF THE PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION SUPPORTING PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE BILL NO. 2322 PRINTER'S NO. 3211, OR SIMILAR LEGISLATION, IMPOSING A MODEST FILING FEE SURCHARGE TO ESTABLISH AN ACCESS TO JUSTICE FUND TO PROVIDE FOR CIVIL LEGAL SERVICES TO INDIGENT PERSONS

WHEREAS, it is of paramount importance that all Pennsylvanians, regardless of income, have access to our system of justice for lawful redress of their grievances;

WHEREAS, the availability of free civil legal services to indigent persons is essential to achieving access to justice in Pennsylvania;

WHEREAS, studies conducted by the American Bar Association, the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and others, have documented that, at most, 20% of the civil legal needs of the poor are being met with current resources;

WHEREAS, the need for free legal services continues to rise while at the same time overall public funding for civil legal services has decreased over the past decade and funds generated by Pennsylvania's Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts program (IOLTA) are expected to decline by more than one million dollars in 2002 due to falling interest rates and decreased business activity;

WHEREASthe number of publicly funded legal services lawyers in Pennsylvania has fallen from 435 lawyers in 1980 to only approximately 200 in 2002;

WHEREAS, as a result of cooperative efforts of bar associations and non-profit organizations, pro bono programs have filled a small portion of the unmet need for civil legal services, but much greater financial resources are needed if access to justice is to be obtained for most of Pennsylvania's poorest citizens;

WHEREAS, the House of Delegates of the Pennsylvania Bar Association adopted a resolution on May 7, 1999 committing itself to the passage of legislation that would impose a filing fee surcharge of $5 on first filings in the appellate and trial civil courts, $4 in the municipal courts and district justices, and $4 on the filings of deeds, mortgages and property transfers, in order to generate needed revenues for the delivery of legal services to the poor;

WHEREAS, 27 states have enacted civil filing fee surcharges that have generated needed additional funding for civil legal assistance for low income people, including the states of Ohio, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Maryland and Massachusetts;

WHEREAS, Representatives Feese and Manderino, along with 106 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, introduced Pennsylvania House Bill No. 2322, Printer's No. 3211, on January 30, 2002, proposing to establish an Access to Justice Fund to provide for civil legal services to indigent persons through the imposition of a modest civil filing fee surcharge that would be appropriated to the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts and administered by the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Account Board; and

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association is a national leader in expanding access to justice for all citizens and strongly supports the provision of free legal services to individuals who need but cannot afford legal representation;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports enactment of House Bill No. 2322, Printer's No. 3211, or similar legislation, and authorizes the Chancellor to take all necessary steps, including contacting appropriate members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, the Senate, and the Governor, regarding this Association's support for this legislation.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: FEBRUARY 28, 2002