The Disparity of the Court System in Cities where Social Status Depends on Your Availability to Get Proper Representation due to Your Economic Status


Court systems within the American continent have been indicted with the charge of according discriminative practices to the populaces as defined by the class system. This trend has notably been identified in city settings with the rich bearing a higher probability of according justice within the legal system attributable to their financial capacity to afford attorney services. The underprivileged within such settings on the other hand are inhibited from the enforcement of justice, thereby according class and economic status as definitive functions within the legal systems (Kaye and Jonathan 1). The inconsistencies attached to the legal practice bear a significant concern to most individuals with American ideals being founded on the concept of impartiality for enhanced human rights within the nation. An appraisal of the New York court practices offers a succinct case with regard to the aforementioned disparity mandating reforms for enhanced communal wellbeing.

New York State Public Defense Lawyers & the Gap between the Poor and Rich

Three status classes are apparent in New York as the affluent, middle level and underprivileged. The financial problem has deepened the gap of legal services between the first and last members of the mentioned classes. The bulk of New York populace comprises of the underprivileged, totaling to at least one million family units. Although the State has accorded an aid fund that is run with state and public funds towards bearing legal costs for the poor, the strategy has proven to be inadequate as the demand for such services has surpassed the provision levels. Within this affected populace, each individual has at least 2.37 unsolved legal cases that are not tabled in courtrooms within a yearly duration. This statistic translates to 2.5 million needs within the needy populace, accounting for eighty-six percent of the total legal needs amongst the needy on a yearly basis (Kaye and Jonathan 1). The inference accorded to the preceding information means that only a scanty fourteen percent of New York’s poor citizens are accorded an opportunity within the legal institutions on an annual basis.

New York courts are largely categorized as trial, intermediate appellate, and the top appellate. The trial courts are further categorized into eleven subcategories with various levels of legal jurisdiction. The intermediate appellate legal institutions are spread within county basis, with each region being served by one court. Four high appeal courts serve the State, with each located within the departmental regions (New York State Unified Court System, 2006). This legal body acquires a majority of its financial aid from the State authorities, constituting to ninety six percent of the entire budgetary requirements. The remaining constituent is sourced from the federal authorities as funded through legal charges and special sponsor activities. Despite the equitable allocation of the legal structures to enhance the accessibility function, most individuals in New York have been forced by the wanting financial needs to subsist with injustice instances.

Honorable Judith Kaye, a practicing chief judge within New York’s courts, and Honorable Jonathan Lippmann, a chief administrative judge within the same state have expressed concern towards this level of disparity, noting that the system’s effectuality in according justice has been inhibited by the financial aspect. Both legal practitioners have additionally asserted that the justice element in New York is hinged on economic standing. The dismal global trade that has been effected by the depression factors has led to a high escalation of the underprivileged needs within the State from an initial figure of three hundred thousand individuals within the period 2005 to 2.1 million individuals within the period 2009 (Glaberson, 2010). The level of cases within the legal docket having increased averagely accords seven hundred representations for every New York attorney on a yearly basis. Expressing this figure on a daily term constitutes to three cases from the initial 2.37 within the earlier period of the twenty first century.

This element has led to an oppressive instance on the underprivileged group, especially towards the defendants unlike the petitioners. The shortage created with regard to attorney functions in New York has led to the breach of rights as the poor lack defensive power. Most of the affected are forced to appear in court sessions devoid any legal attorney. The problem has persisted with some individuals being forced to wait for as long as five months before such services can be accorded by the State (Mansnerus, 2001). Other oppressive instances have been reported to in connection to such practices in New York with one woman bearing witness to the New York County Lawyers Association (NTCLA) by noting that she had to fend for her case for child aid devoid any help or advise from an attorney. In another instance, another woman had to present her case for protective guardianship towards her family against an abusive relationship. Both plaintiffs lost their cases because they lacked proper skills that could accord justice in their situations due to lack of public attorneys.

The NTCLA noted that in the latter case, the plaintiff lost the appeal towards her case due to the omission of significant information concerning an instance that the violent man had tried to harm the mother and her children by forcing them out of a moving vehicle. Had the case been worked on by a legal attorney, the omitted testimony would have been accorded an essential role within the aces and integrity would have prevailed. In another issue tabled towards the association, a father’s right to freedom was breached through a coercive arrangement that led to an unfair three-day jailing term to await the services of a public attorney (Mansnerus, 2001). The preceding examples are a sample of the many complaints that are raised by the underprivileged class in New York with regard to deferred justice within the legal institutions. Notably, as the existing number of lawyers is being overstretched to meet the influx of legal needs, the quality of the accorded services has been notably wanting with most rights being breached due to the overwhelming requirements.

The NTCLA has accorded this blame for this unethical practice to the State by the assertion that the public attorneys are largely underpaid reducing their impetus within the working environment (Mansnerus, 2001). Additionally, the association has noted that with lack of financial incentives within the legal career, most attorneys have a higher preference for the private practice that accords higher remuneration. The remuneration charges accorded to lawyers from the period 1980s to the period 2003 were between the ranges of twenty-five and forty dollars on an hourly basis. Following the NTCLA views and proposals, the charges were reviewed upwards to a range of sixty and seventy-five dollars within the same duration. However, notable discrepancies were still noted between the fees afforded to the public and private attorneys as recently as the 2009 period. In this year, public attorneys were offered four hundred and forty four thousand dollars by the State while private practitioners were accorded 1.1 million dollars within the same period.

This discriminative remuneration approach has maintained disagreements within the legal body and the populace, largely represented by the poor, has borne the costs and overheads attached to the disputes. Lawyer services given to the underprivileged are still very poor majorly due to the payment factor. The affluent group has been affected neither by the financial aspect nor by the clashes being evidenced within the legal body in New York. Within the most recent national survey conducted in the period 2007, New York was ranked as the leading region in the issue of income disparities when compared to the rest of the States. Twenty percent of the wealthiest individuals owned twenty times more wealth, measured in terms of income, than that accorded to twenty percent of the underprivileged group. These figures were congruent within the cities of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey (Roberts, 2007). The city of Manhattan was most affected with the income disparity, as the affluent receive forty times what the underprivileged group attains.

In terms of the populace, the census revealed that in every five individuals, one amongst them is categorized within the underprivileged group and such cannot afford legal services. With the 2008 global depression, the level of the underprivileged has been enhanced necessitating the adoption of new guidelines within the court system to aid the poor. This has been infused in the legal system in pro bono approaches through enlisting a larger number of law practitioners in the field, with the bulk being the X generation lawyers (Kaye and Jonathan 7). The new workers have been employed in large numbers to accord to the additional demand for such services related to the underprivileged. The approach has been noteworthy as it accords the young lawyers with the ability to practice their skills and acquire familiarity with court systems. Consequently, as the skills are enhanced, the young lawyers acquire the proficiency to create credible careers and personal development. However, the strategy’s effectiveness has been inhibited by the remuneration factor and the underprivileged populace of New York still bears the economic element within the court institutions.

Summary of New York Minority Statistics

  • 2.5 unsolved legal needs in a year
  • 2.37 unsolved legal cases per underprivileged individual
  • 86% of all legal needs within the needy populace are left unsolved within a year
  • Economic issues have led to an increase within the needy populace from 300,000 individuals from the year 2005 to 2.1 million individuals by 2009 showing an inflation of the needs
  • Each public attorney is now expected to represent 700 cases within a year, translating to 2.37 cases within a day
  • The needy have to bear with the demand increase by up to 5 months before legal representation can be accorded by the State
  • Legal attorneys were ranging from $25 – $40 for each hour in the periods 1980-2003 and this was relatively affordable to the underprivileged. The figure have since been revised to $60 – $75 in hourly terms and this is unaffordable to the affected group
  • New York has the largest income disparities within America thereby accentuating the lack of finances towards legal needs
  • The least 20% of the poor individuals combined earn 20 times less than the wealthy individuals as evidenced by Connecticut, New York and New Jersey cities
  • Manhattan is most affected with up to 40 times more in terms of income disparities


New York legal institutions and services are still managed by the financial component with the underprivileged inhibited from acquiring legal needs due to the monetary aspect. The affluent on the other hand are well able to afford the given offers and thereby have a higher level of wellbeing than the poor. As most lawyers refuse to accord services as public attorneys due to the remuneration function, the courts need to infuse a permanent solution towards the aiding of the affected, in according equitable treatment.




















Works Cited

Glaberson, William. “Courts Seek More Lawyers to Help the Poor.” The New York Times, 6 Jan. 2010. Web. 20 May 2011. <>.

Kaye, Judith, and Jonathan Lippmann. Volume Two: Report and Recommendations form the New York State Unified Court System’s Pro Bono Convocations. January 2004. Web. 20 May 2011. <>.

Mansnerus, Laura. “Saying Courts Fail the Poor, Lawyer’s Group Sues the State.” The New York Times, 2 June 2001. Web. 20 May 2011. <>.

New York State Unified Court System. Introduction to the Courts. 30 Oct. 2006. Web. 20 May 2011. <>.

Roberts, Sam. “Census: New York Region Has Widest Income Gap.” The New York Times, 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 May 2011. <>.

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