To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:
As you know, the State of New York - similar to states across the country - has been struggling to address the impact of the economic downturn on the state budget.In their work on this year's budget, state policy makers were confronted with a multi-billion dollar budget deficit. In order to "balance" the budget, a number of tax and fee increases, along with cuts in state programs and the state workforce, have been included in the final $131 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2009-10.
In the days prior to enactment of the massive budget legislation, I became aware of a proposal to generate $35 million in revenue by increasing several fees and surcharges that would have had a direct impact on litigants and the legal profession. Among the ideas discussed by budget negotiators were proposed increases in the fees to purchase an index number and to take the bar exam, and two new fees - a "motion fee" in lower courts (civil court in the City of New York, district and upstate city courts, where individuals often appear pro se) and a fee on certain arbitrations.
After receiving guidance from the Association's Executive Committee, which sets policy between meetings of the House of Delegates, I reached out to state leaders and informed them that the New York State Bar Association strongly opposes such fees or fee increases. In the course of a few hours, the Association, both by letters, telephone calls, and in-person meetings, voiced concerns over this matter to the Counsel to the Governor, the Division of the Budget, the office of Court Administration, and the leaders of the state legislature. Copies of my letters are available for your review on the Association's web site at www.nysba.org/LettersReOppositionToFeeIncreases.
I am pleased to inform you that the proposed list of fees and surcharges was not included in the final budget legislation. Our action on this matter is consistent with a top legislative priority of the Association: keeping alert to actions and proposals by the government that would impact the profession, and opposing those that unfairly target or burden lawyers. We will continue to work to ensure that attorneys are able to protect their interests and their clients' interests by opposing proposals that would have an adverse impact on lawyers, litigants and the court system.
Bernice K. Leber
Partner, Arent Fox LLP