MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County Surrogate’s Office and Morris County Bar Association hosted a program for attorneys interested in the Reduced Fee Referral Program being offered by the bar for people with matters germane to the Surrogate’s Court, including probate issues and guardianships.
The presentation began with a brief program introduction by Surrogate Heather Darling and an overview of her plans for the office in her new role as Surrogate. Deputy Surrogate Christopher Luongo, Esq. offered some helpful hints for attorneys getting started with the program and Chief Probate Clerk Deborah Scott explained her role in the Reduced Fee Referral Program.
Morris County Bar Association President John Paul Velez, Esq. introduced the origins of the program, which now encompasses matters within the Surrogate’s Court. The program was only recently started by the Bar “to ensure that as many people as possible have access to legal counsel as they navigate the court system.” Past President of the Morris County Bar and Program Co-Chair Jennifer McAndrew Vuotto offered detailed information about the program including how attorneys become eligible to participate, as well as how clients themselves apply.
Acting Morris County Bar Executive Director Christina Jones explained the process, within the Morris County Bar Association Offices, from the client’s submission of an application to the matching of the client with a participating attorney.
The Reduced Fee Referral Program matches attorneys within the Morris County Bar Association with Morris County Residents that neither qualify for pro bono legal services nor are able to afford standard legal rates.
“The program benefits the citizens of Morris County during some of the most difficult times of their lives. Those who truly need representation navigating the guardianship or probate process, but who are living paycheck to paycheck, can now obtain the benefit of a seasoned attorney by their side. This comfort is priceless at a time that their emotional and financial resources are heavily strained. I am also proud that we are able to offer this much needed program without adding to financial burden already borne by the taxpayers. This program is a win-win and I have already had inquiries from other Surrogates interested in bringing it forth in their counties” said Darling.
Deputy Surrogate Chris Luongo sees the program as “a way to bridge the gap for those legally left behind.”
“We are pleased to partner with Surrogate Darling to increase the availability of affordable legal services to more citizens of Morris County. Our goal in starting this program was to assist our Courts and our community by matching more litigants with counsel.” Jennifer McAndrew Vuotto, RFP Program co-chair.
Attorneys interested in participating the program can get more information from the Morris County Bar Association. Interested litigants are encouraged to submit their applications for services available in the Surrogate’s Office through the Bar Association.