For the fourth year in a row, Governor Rick Scott vetoed funding earmarked to provide legal service for low-income Florida residents. According to the News Service of Florida, the June 2 veto eliminated $2 million included in the $77.1 billion 2014-15 state budget for “civil legal assistance.” The backlog of low income applicants for lawyer assistance continues to grow in spite of the best efforts of our Legal Aid Foundation and Legal Services of North Florida to keep up. As the Governor’s veto makes clear, as in past years, we cannot count on the State (even in a budget surplus year) to provide a financial solution addressing this serious issue. Equal access denied is justice denied.
I have tasked this year’s TBA pro bono committee, co-chaired by Judge Nina Ashenafi Richardson and Will Hall, to develop a detailed strategy for achieving goals recommended by last year’s pro bono committee, among these the improvement of coordination between provider organizations within the Second Judicial Circuit. TBA’s Event Committee, co-chaired by Booter Imhof and Hayley Day and supported by knowledgeable lawyer and non-lawyer consultants with music connections, are actively planning a major fund-raising concert event in the fall to help raise money for the Legal Aid Foundation as a counterpart to LSNF’s successful Jazz for Justice springtime event.
Tallahassee lawyers and firms, particularly those in the TBA, have a longstanding tradition of pro bono service. I am asking each of you to contribute time, money, mentoring and/or creative ideas to help us solve the backlog and meet the needs going forward. Stay tuned for sponsorship opportunities and legal aid events in the second half of the year.