(TRENTON) – Assembly Judiciary Chairman Peter J. Barnes III released the following statement Thursday on budget plans to increase funding for Legal Services of New Jersey by $5 million.
The nonprofit program provides free legal assistance to low-income New Jerseyans for their civil legal problems, but Gov. Chris Christie’s budget last year cut $9.7 million from the program, creating staff cutbacks and other concerns amid rising demand for legal services and poverty:
“The funding cut and the loss of staff couldn’t have come at worse time for the low-income people served by this organization. We’re told request for services rose as much as 50 percent, which means the requests from poorer New Jerseyans for legal help could not be met with adequate reDests. We need to change that and ensure this organization can function properly.
“Our justice system rests upon the belief that each citizen deserves fair representation in the courts, but the reality is that many of our poorest residents would not have access to such representation with Legal Services. It’s unfortunate that his nonprofit has fallen victim to funding cuts, but we have taken a fair and reasonable step toward to fixing it.
“Meanwhile, I will continue working on legislation (A-4197) I’ve introduced to provide for new and increased court and application fees to fund Legal Services of New Jersey and to fund the Judiciary’s computerized court information systems.”