State Representative concerned about Lexington legal aid debate

Lexington, Ky. - The head of the committee that overseas state legal issues in the Ky. House of Representatives is concerned a debate over Lexington's legal aid office might hurt poor people seeking legal representation in Fayette courts.

Lexington Representative and House Judiciary Chairwoman Kathy Stein – herself a lawyer - says state takeover would probably improve the local system… but she does not want funding or staffing to decline while the state and Fayette County debate.

Lexington Mayor Jim Newberry has proposed cutting legal aid funding and allowing the state to take over the local system. Council opposes his idea and has restored $108 thousand dollars in funding. Legal aid represents defendants in court who can’t afford private lawyers.

State Legal Aid Director Ernie Lewis says state operation would improve Fayette’s system and give its lawyers merit system protection.
Fayette County Legal Aid Director Joseph Barbieri says his office is doing just fine without the state and as well as any other county.

Proponents of state takeover say Fayette Legal Aid costs defendants more than any other county in the state system. Stein says that’s because Fayette correctly charges defendants - who can afford it - what they can pay to offset the costs of their defense.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Doris Location: Powell County on Jun 18, 2007 at 01:10 PM
    Can't get no good attorney when it comes to getting child support from my no good ex. The whole system stinks
  • by Deborah Garrison Location: Winchester on Jun 18, 2007 at 11:46 AM
    Fayette County and it's Legal Aid officials would serve themselves well by following the lead of Public Advocate Ernie Lewis. Under his leadership, he has taken a state-wide system that was struggling and made it into a model sustained program throughout the country. Other states look to Kentucky as a model for how they run their indigent defense servics because of his leadership. It is absolutely ridiculous to assert that Mr. Lewis' long term goal has been to take over Fayette Legal Aide. I can personally vouch for the fact that his lifetime goal has not been in taking over Fayette County Legal Aide but has been in improving the state of Kentucky's indigent defense services as a whole! If that means improving Fayette County Legal Aide then so be it!
  • by SPIKE LEE OF KY.BB Location: LEX, KY. on Jun 18, 2007 at 09:30 AM
    CHAIRWOMAN KATHY STEIN SHOULD BE COMMENDED FOR BRINGING THIS MATTER UP.SHE HAS INSIGHT REGARDING THIS.I WOULD FOLLOW HER DIRECTION AND STEP UP.I'VE HEARD FROM RELABLE SOURCES THAT THE SYSTEM IN FAYETTE COUNTY NEEDS TO BE GUTTED.WE SHOULD HELP,ASSIST IN ANY WAY WE CAN.
  • by James Location: Lexington on Jun 18, 2007 at 07:45 AM
    Powerful people get justice. Poor people get shafted. Look at O.J. then check the number of people in jail who did not have the best lawyer money can buy.
  • by Russ Location: Franklin County on Jun 18, 2007 at 07:42 AM
    I agree with Willy. A lot of people think its no big deal until they have a legal problem and don't have the money to go up against a seasoned professional prosecutor. Public Defenders are often the last line of defense for someone wronged. Many people might think it's no big deal until it happens to them.
  • by Willy Location: Fayette on Jun 18, 2007 at 06:39 AM
    The whole idea of legal aid is to help those people who are most disadvantaged receive a fair trial guaranteed under the sixth amendment of our Constitution. Whoever can do it best should do the job. Too many times we see money making a powerful difference in who goes to jail, prison or death row. That distorts and corrupts our legal system. Work it out and get on with justice for the poor.

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