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July 15, 2022

Judge Orders Lawyer to Handle Divorce Case for Free | Cup of Joe

Judge Orders Lawyer to Handle Divorce Case For Free

David Bliven Esq., is a New York attorney with a very busy matrimonial practice. He is a sole practitioner. One day, he received a directive from a judge in Putnam County Supreme Court requiring him to represent a party in a divorce matter who could not afford a lawyer.

Mr. Bliven objected, asserting that there is no basis in New York law for the assignment of counsel on a pro bono basis, and further, that his assignment without compensation is violative of his rights under the 5th, 13th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. He requested an order relieving him as attorney for the Defendant, or, alternatively, directing payment from the public purse for his services and fixing the prescribed hourly rate.

The attorney’s application was DENIED. The court held that “In appropriate cases, New York courts may properly call upon attorneys to fulfill their ethical obligation to the poor to achieve fairness, justice and equality in the administration of the civil justice system.

This decision is a reminder that “an applicant for admission to practice law may justly be deemed to be aware of the tradition of his profession that a lawyer may be obligated to represent indigents for little or no compensation upon court order.”

Read the full decision here.

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