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Barnes: Christie Veto Makes Access To Legal Assistance Harder for Poor New Jerseyans

(TRENTON) – Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, III on Friday denounced Gov. Christie’s veto of legislation that would have created a funding mechanism to help Legal Services of New Jersey continue to offer free, legal assistance to low income residents in civil cases.

“As many as two hundred thousand eligible people seek help from Legal Services of New Jersey each year, but due to inadequate resources, two-thirds are turned away. This bill would have created a more stable source of funding for Legal Services to continue to help poor New Jersey residents who cannot afford legal representation in civil matters,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex), who sponsored the bill. “Thanks to the governor’s veto, many of these residents will now have to fend for themselves in a judicial system that can be convoluted and intimidating. This is not justice for all.”

The bill (A-763) would have authorized the Supreme Court to revise or supplement filing fees and other statutory fees payable to the court. Revenue from the fees would have been used to fund:

  • the development, maintenance and administration of a statewide, computerized court information system, that incorporates electronic filing, service of process, document and case management, financial management, and public access to digital court records; and
  • the provision of legal assistance in civil matters by Legal Services of New Jersey.

The revenue collected from the increase in fees would have been distributed as follows: $17 million to assist the courts in transitioning to a computerized court information system; and $10.1 million to Legal Services of New Jersey and its affiliates exclusively for the provision of legal assistance to the poor in civil matters. Any remaining funding would have been retained by the judiciary for the purpose of developing, maintaining and administering information technology.

“The governor has once again sent a message to poor residents that he does not care to represent them,” Barnes added. “I will give credit to the governor for at least being consistently on message with this veto: unless you are a wealthy New Jerseyan, this administration will not help you.”