Rep. Méndez lauds enactment of Access to Justice Fund law
By The Star Staff
The New Progressive Party minority leader in the House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez, thanked Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Thursday for signing into law a measure authored by the lawmaker that brings more economic resources to the Access to Justice Fund.
On Tuesday, Pierluisi enacted Law 65-2023 to raise around $6 million for the fund.
“Over the past four years, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that the Access to Justice Fund is real, operational and ready to fulfill its purpose,” Méndez said. “Access to justice is essential and should not be tied to economic capacity. That is why we believe it is important to provide greater resources to this Access Fund, creating sources of real income, such as this new law, so that every citizen who requires it can have access to it.”
“I thank the governor for making this bill a reality for the neediest people in Puerto Rico,” the legislator added. “We will continue to seek alternatives for ensuring that everyone can have equal access to the justice system in Puerto Rico.”
According to the legislation’s preamble, the institutions supervised by the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF by its Spanish initials) in accordance with the various provisions of the regulatory law, must dispose of the funds and other liquid assets that remain inactive in their accounts or in their custody. In particular, under Law No. 55 of May 12, 1933, known as the “Puerto Rico Banking Act,” OCIF transfers to the Treasury Department abandoned assets received by commercial banks operating in Puerto Rico and subject to being claimed by their owners in or before three years.
Those funds are currently distributed to the General Fund and the Housing Finance Authority’s ‘Golden Key’ program. There is a need to distribute these funds to an additional component to address access to justice in Puerto Rico, according to the new law.
The amounts deposited by the OCIF have averaged over $15 million per year for the past five years. The bill, now law, directs the Treasury Department to transfer 40% of those resources to the Access to Justice Fund.