New York's Chief Justice Pledges to Provide Lawyers for Homeowners in State Address

The state's chief justice wants to make sure homeowners facing foreclosure can get a lawyer, even if they can't afford one. Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman made his comments during his annual State of the Judiciary speech in Albany on Tuesday.

He said the court system will team up with the Legal Aid Society in Queens and other groups to get the program started, with the goal of expanding it across the state by the end of the year. Lippman said New York courts heard more than 100,000 foreclosure settlement hearings in 2010, and nearly 80,000 cases are still pending.

He also wants to crack down on lawyers who make contributions to judicial election campaigns and has announced a rule that would forbid a trial judge from hearing a case if one of the defendants, plaintiffs, or lawyers involved contributed $2,500 or more to the judge's campaign during the two years prior to the trial.

More than half of the state's 1,100 trial judges are elected. Government watchdogs have complained for years that some judges grant generous fees to lawyers who've contributed to their election campaigns.

The new rule was adopted February 1 by the court system's administrative body, but won't go into effect for 60 days, to allow time for public comment.