In the 2011 legislative session, the Republican-dominated Legislature approved $1,000,000 in funding for 25 legal aid organizations that reached into all 67 Florida counties. On May 26, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the funding.
It will be only the second time in 10 years that Florida will not be providing any state funds to help poor families with their civil difficulties.
According to data, in fiscal year 2009-2010 $1,000,000 in state funding to the 25 legal agencies was used to assist with 3,848 cases, including 1,435 family law cases, 1,111 cases seeking access to federal benefits, 191 domestic violence cases, and 33 elder abuse cases. In addition, the grant money paid for educational programs that reached 5,979 people.
Florida Tax Watch performed a study which found that the $1 million in 2008-09 civil legal assistance funding generated $13.86 of positive economic impact in Florida for every $1 spent on legal aid by the state.
According to Former Florida Bar President Terry Russell, “I’m hoping between now and next year maybe we can educate the Governor’s Office and the [Florida] Attorney General’s Office on the importance of this program, and somehow find a way through because a fair number of Floridians will not be able to address their legal problems, and a fair number of legal aid lawyers will lose their jobs. And that’s sad.”
(2012 UPDATE: Governor Scott does it again. For the second year in a row, he has vetoed funding for the Florida Access to Civil Assistance Act.)
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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.