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Toohil’s Bill to Improve Legal Services for Disadvantaged Pennsylvanians Passed by House

HARRISBURG – Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) that would increase state funding for legal services used by low-income Pennsylvanians was unanimously approved by the House of Representatives today.

“The passage of this bill is important to the indigent and working poor across our state,” said Toohil. “Currently, thousands of disadvantaged citizens who qualify for legal services are being turned away due to insufficient funding. Each day this bill is not signed into law is another day they are denied equal assistance with civil matters, including domestic violence and eviction cases."

House Bill 1337 would amend a law enacted in 2002 to help fund legal services for low-income residents of the Commonwealth. During the 2011-12 legislative session, the General Assembly reauthorized the legislation for an additional five-year period. In fiscal year 2011-12, the act produced $11 million in funding.

The act established an account which financially supports operation of the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network (PLAN). PLAN maintains 14 offices throughout the state and provides civil case legal assistance to citizens who qualify for the service. Generally, the cases include protection from abuse, eviction and emergency custody.

The account is currently funded through a $2 fee placed on court filings and a temporary fee of $1. Toohil’s legislation would add $1 to the fees for a new total of $4. The measure would also make the temporary fee permanent.

According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts board, which is an arm of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the account provides a stable source of funding for legal services to the disadvantaged.  However, the report also said even with $3 in fees, PLAN turns away half of those who qualify for services.

“I would like to thank my House colleagues for their unanimous, bipartisan support of the bill,” said Toohil. “The co-chairs of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Ron Marsico (R-Dauphin) and Representative Tom Caltagirone (D-Berks), should also be commended for recognizing the great need for the legislation and moving it forward.”

House Bill 1337 will next be considered by the Senate.

For more information on Toohil and her legislative priorities, visit or

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
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