TRENTON – It isn’t just the Legal Services of New Jersey that will be hampered by Gov. Chris Christie’s budget cuts.
Some $200,000 was sliced from three law school clinic programs at Rutgers University-Newark, Rutgers University-Camden and Seton Hall University Law School.
Victoria Chase, dean of Rutgers University Law School-Camden, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee today that two of the six members who run the clinic were cut due to the funding shortage.
Earlier in the day, the head of Legal Services of New Jersey predicted dire consequences if $10 million cut from the budget is not restored.
Chase said the clinics provide law students with hands-on experience with cases, applying their knowledge acquired in the classroom.
Chase said 140 cases were worked on by approximately 50 students per academic year. In all, between 30,000 and 32,000 hours of free legal help was provided.
She said the legal clinics try not to overlap cases with ones Legal Services of New Jersey works on.
Chase added there is a “fast growing number” of individuals who don’t earn enough to afford their own lawyer but who earn enough that they can’t qualify for the legal assistance these type of programs offer.
Jim Duggan of the Rutgers Law School in Newark said, “law clinics provide much needed practice of the law.”
Several members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee who are also lawyers – Caroline Casagrande, (R-12), Freehold; Annette Quijano, (D-20), Union; and Lou Greenwald, (D-6), of Voorhees – said law clinics provide a valuable service.
Quijano said it’s vital to keep legal services and clinics intact.
“When the safety nets are taken away, there’s no hope.”
This was the third hearing in two weeks held by the Assembly to examine the effects of Gov. Christie’s budget cuts.