The Florida Supreme Court has Just Dealt a Big Blow to Legal Aid

A divided Florida Supreme Court refused Thursday to authorize Florida Bar leaders to raise attorney dues to fund legal aid.

In a last batch of decisions before its summer hiatus, the court ruled 4-3 to turn down the request from a coalition of 522 Florida Bar members.

The lawyers asked the high court to allow the Florida Bar board of governors to increase annual dues of $265 by up to $100 to address what they called a crisis in the system for funding legal services for the poor. Bar dues have held steady for two decades.

“As petitioners point out, the state of Florida is facing a significant decrease in funding for legal aid and there is an urgent need for new solutions to ensure that every person has equal access to our judicial system,” the court wrote in the unsigned opinion. “However, because we believe this issue requires further study and a more comprehensive approach, we decline to adopt petitioners’ proposed amendment at this time.”

While commending attorneys for “their altruism” for raising a “significant and critical issue,” the majority called for more discussion of the best funding methods “to strengthen equal access to our judicial system.”

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