April 18, 2014

Bill would increase legal-aid funding

The legislature is considering a bill introduced by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that would bolster legal aid for low-income residents.

Legal aid services face a $4.5 million reduction in state funding next fiscal year, because a series of fee increases approved in 2012 is set to expire.

Attorneys' clients pay those fees for filing civil lawsuits, small claims cases, and counterclaims, among other actions.

Malloy's bill would make the 2012 increases permanent. Civil lawsuits, for example, would continue to carry a $350 fee, instead of a $300 fee.

The bill would also increase the percentage of filing fees that go to legal aid.

The net result for legal aid services would be an estimated increase of $1.6 million in fiscal 2015, which would come from interest on lawyers' trust accounts overseen by the chief court administrator. That money would come at the expense of a revolving fund the state's courts use to upgrade technology and equipment.

The legal-services funding increase would jump to $6.3 million the following year.

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