Jon Campisi Sep. 24, 2013, 9:41am


A state House of Representatives panel this week is scheduled to examine proposals to better fund “fair trials” in the commonwealth, according to a legislative announcement.

State Rep. Mike Sturla, a Democrat representing Pennsylvania’s 96th Legislative District in Lancaster County, announced on Sept. 23 that the House Democratic Policy Committee would hold a public hearing this Thursday to solicit input from various stakeholders on ways to address funding needs to ensure fair trials and glean perspectives on proposed ways in which the current judicial system could be improved in this arena.

The hearing is slated to take place at the main Capitol Building in Harrisburg.

Those scheduled to testify on the subject include Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan, who is also a member of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association; Samuel Milkes, who serves as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network; and Helen Stolinas, the chief public defender in Bradford County and the president of the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania.

The hearing comes at the request of State Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, a Democrat who represents Berks County and serves as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.

According to its website, the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network is dedicated to providing free legal services to low-income Pennsylvanians.

The organization provides an administrative framework and what it calls strategic oversight to legal aid programs that offer free legal advice and representation in civil cases to more than 100,000 low-income citizens across the commonwealth.

In related news, the state Supreme Court earlier this month announced that $4.1 million in residual funds from a class action suit out of Philadelphia against carmaker Kia would go toward legal services for low-income Pennsylvanians.

The move, which comes after a civil procedural rule change that took effect in July 2012 directing how money left over from lawsuits is to be distributed, means the millions in unclaimed funds from that class action case alone would help offset civil legal costs for the downtrodden.

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