In New York, millions of civil litigants each year fight for the necessities of life without the aid of a lawyer because they are unable to afford one. While the state courts strive to provide access to justice for all constituents, this ideal becomes a promise unfulfilled due to the lack of available civil legal services for low-income populations. In this essay, I discuss access to justice in the state courts from the perspective of my role as Chief Judge of the State of New York. I examine the enormity of the unmet need in New York and around the country and discuss the measures I have taken as head of the New York State court system to address the crisis. These efforts have resulted in a substantial increase in state funding for civil legal services, the establishment of the Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, annual hearings in each of New York's four Judicial Departments, and the development of programs designed to spur the legal community (including law students) to greater involvement in pro bono work.

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