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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Raising the cost of legal services

A petition is being filed, seeking to raise the cost of being a lawyer in Florida by a hundred dollars a year.
   
The money is needed to replace a declining source of money to fund services for the poor.

The legal community is up in arms.
Clients of agencies providing free legal services are finding it harder to get help.

Kent Spuhler
Florida Legal Services
"We're in a crisis of access. These are people that are facing domestic violence, veterans that are homeless."

Free legal service for the needy has been funded by interest payments on money lawyers are holding for other people. It dropped from 44 million a year to just over 5 million when interest rates plummeted.

Raoul Cantera
Former Supreme Court Justice
"At the same time the need for legal services skyrocketed because of the economy."

Former State Supreme Court Justice Rauol Cantera wants lawyers to step up. He wants the state's highest court to allow Bar dues to go up by up to a hundred dollars.

Raoul Cantera
Former Supreme Court Justice
"It's eight dollars a month. It's a couple latte's."

But the proposed hike has the legal community crying foul.
The Bar's Board of Governor's is opposing the fee hike. They say even when the money was flowing, only one in five people who needed help were getting it. They say the problem is societal wide."

Cantera says people are hurting.
Raoul Cantera
 Former Supreme Court Justice
"We need to start doing something. We can't wait until we decide decide whose responsibility it is."

Since the interest meltdown, there have been 30 thousand fewer cases getting the help of a legal aid lawyers.
Kent Spuhler
"We've already lost 150...we may lose another hundred if we don't turn this crisis around."

The hike, if instituted, would raise about ten million a year.
The Florida Bar says it is working on funding options to help legal aid, including the possibility of providing loans until interest payments recover. And even if the hike is approved, it will still be up to the Bar's Board of Governor's to assess it.