Montgomery, Ala., February 6, 2012 – As the state Legislature prepares for the 2012 legislative session, the Alabama State Bar today urged state lawmakers to provide greater access to the justice system for those living in poverty and to protect the independence of the judiciary by adequately funding the court system.
An underfunded court system chills investment, slows job creation and reduces tax revenue in our state. The current funding crisis exerts a disproportionate impact on the judicial system, for example, “high volume courts” – those that hear family and juvenile matters, misdemeanors and small claims disputes – are feeling the brunt of these cuts, whose impact begins subtly but has the potential to escalate dramatically. Battered women unable to receive protection orders against abusive partners; children in foster care unable to have timely adoption hearings; abused and neglected children unable to have their interests protected; and vandalism, petty theft and drug offenses going unheard – all threaten the rule of law and the safety and well-being of our communities.
State Bar President James R. Pratt, III, of Birmingham (Hare Wynn Newell & Newton, LLP), said, “Whether it is advocating for effective counsel for indigent Alabamians or seeking equal legal rights for all, we are committed to enhancing citizens’ trust and confidence in our justice system and government institutions. We look forward to working with Governor Bentley and the state Legislature to ensure that every Alabama citizen has full and equal access to the justice system. By raising this important public policy issue, we are fulfilling our role as the chief proponent of the rule of law and facilitating the administration of justice.”
Additionally, the State Bar has been called upon to facilitate the discussion concerning the Alabama Children’s Family Act, the public adjusters bill, and the taxpayer’s bill of rights/Alabama Tax Appeals Commission Act. It is likely the Bar will be called upon to facilitate or mediate other bills as well.
On a local level, the State Bar has actively been facilitating conversations between Jefferson County legislators and the Jefferson County Commission, as well as all other stakeholders to help address the county’s financial crisis.
Pratt said, “The State Bar will work to protect the independence of the judiciary, enhance access to the courts, promote affirmative legislative proposals that improve the administration of justice, and oppose those proposals that would burden it.”
The 16,900-member Alabama State Bar is dedicated to promoting the professional responsibility, competence and satisfaction of its members, improving the administration of justice and increasing public understanding and respect for the law.