(TRENTON) – Assembly Judiciary Chairman Peter J. Barnes III (D-Middlesex) released the following statement Wednesday after hearing testimony on the impact of the governor’s cuts to Legal Services of New Jersey and other legal assistance programs for the poor.
The governor cut $10 million from Legal Services of New Jersey. The governor also eliminated funding for clinical legal programs for the poor at Rutgers School of Law in Camden and in Newark. Both programs lost $200,000 under the cuts:
“The governor’s second significant funding cut in as many years to Legal Services of New Jersey – combined with the new cuts to the legal clinics – couldn’t have come at worse time for working class New Jerseyans.
“This situation has unfortunately become a major concern, and it didn’t have to be this way. Our responsible plan would have helped ease this crisis, but the governor not only cut the $5 million funding increase we approved for Legal Services, but cut another $5 million and then targeted the legal clinics for the poor in Camden and Newark.
“Our justice system rests upon the belief that each citizen deserves adequate representation in the courts, but the testimony we heard today shows many of our poorest residents won’t have access to such representation as they fight concerns like foreclosure and domestic violence. That’s not right.
“This is a matter of fairness, Cutting costs in these difficult economic times is a must, but we do so in a way that ensures all New Jerseyans receive justice. Everyone – not just New Jersey’s wealthiest residents – should have access to proper legal representation.
“I will continue to work on a legislative solution, hopefully with cooperation from the governor, but the governor also needs to reconsider these cuts.”