October 17, 2018

Latest Developments

September 2018

CONTINUING RESOLUTION EXTENDS LSC FUNDING THROUGH DECEMBER 7

On September 28, President Trump signed H.R. 6157 (P.L. 115-245) which provided full-year funding for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill also includes a continuing resolution to ensure that the entire federal government will be funded through December 7, 2018. This includes funding LSC at $410 million.

ABA APPLAUDS PASSAGE OF THE POWER ACT

On September 18, the ABA sent thank you letters to the House and Senate co-sponsors of the POWER Act for their leadership on passing the bill and requires the chief judge from each judicial district to promote annually pro bono legal services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The law, which was enacted September 4th, includes in its findings the ABA Model Rules and commentary stating that “every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional workload, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay, and personal involvement in the problems of the disadvantaged can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the life of a lawyer.”

ABA SUPPORTS LSC BOARD NOMINATIONS

On September 11, the ABA sent a letter to the Senate HELP committee regarding the nominations to the Legal Services Corporation Board of Directors. The ABA supports the confirmation of Robert J. Grey, Jr., Abigail L. Kuzma, John G. Levi, John G. Malcolm, Frank X. Neuner, Jr., and Gloria Valencia-Weber.

July 2018

FY2019 HOUSE BUDGET REPORT REMOVES BAD LANGUAGE REGARDING LSC

On July 13, 2018, the House of Representatives Budget Committee passed Fiscal Year 2019 report language that, while still presenting the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation as a policy option, did not include the same negative language as the Fiscal Year 2018 report language did—a positive development. The specific language removed had stated, “Critics have argued that despite restriction already in place, the Legal Services Corporation too often focuses on social activist causes rather than advocating for those persons needing legal help the most.”

June 2018

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY ON FY2019 SENATE CJS BILL

On June 26, 2018, the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. This Statement of Administration Policy argued that the Fiscal Year 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill overfunded some accounts. Though the Administration had earlier in the year proposed elimination of the Legal Services Corporation, the letter did not include LSC as one of the overfunded accounts in the bill.

FY 2019 CJS APPROPRIATIONS BILL PASSES SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

On June 14, by unanimous consent the Commerce, Justice, Science, FY 2019 Appropriations bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, which funds LSC at $410 million. No amendments were brought up regarding LSC.

FY 2019 SENATE CJS APPROPRIATIONS BILL FUNDS LSC AT $410 MILLION

On June 12, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee “marked up” their Fiscal Year 2019 bill. LSC received $410 million in funding in that bill, a continuation of the FY 2018 level and a match to the House level. The subcommittee bill was passed unanimously without any amendments. The full Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the bill on June 14.

PRESIDENT TRUMP NOMINATES 6 INDIVIDUALS FOR LSC BOARD OF DIRECTORS

On June 11, President Trump nominated 6 individuals to serve on the LSC Board of Directors. They include: Robert J. Grey Jr, Senior Counsel-Retired with Hunton & Williams, who currently serves on LSC’s board; Abigail L. Kuzma currently serves as a non-director member of LSC’s Governance and Performance Review and Delivery of Legal Services Committees; John G. Levi, the current Chairman of LSC’s board and a partner in Sidley Austin’s Chicago office; John G. Malcolm, Vice President for the Institute for Constitutional Government and Director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation; Frank X. Neuner Jr., founder and managing partner of NeunerPate in Lafayette, Louisiana; and Gloria Valencia-Weber, the Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law, who currently serves on LSC’s board. For the past decades the American Bar Association has evaluated the nominees for LSC Board.

May 2018

ABA PRESIDENT SUBMITS WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO SENATE CJS ON LSC

On May 23, ABA President Hilarie Bass submitted testimony to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in support of funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The testimony expresses the ever-growing need for legal services in the new justice gap study, the opioid crisis, and in recent natural disasters. It also emphasizes the federal role in justice for all, recommends against placing an unfunded mandate for legal services on states and localities, and notes the complementary role legal services plays for the Congressional offices’ constituent services representatives.

FY 2019 CJS APPROPRIATIONS BILL PASSES HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

On May 17, the Commerce, Justice, Science, FY 2019 Appropriations bill passed the House Appropriations Committee, which funds LSC at $410 million. Congressman David Young (R-IA) stated his support for the program. Congressman David Price (D-NC) brought up an amendment which would raise LSC funding by $10 million, but it did not pass.

39 STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL LETTER IN SUPPORT OF LSC

On May 14, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman led a bipartisan coalition of 39 state attorneys general asking the U.S. House and U.S. SenateCommittees on Appropriations to fund LSC in the FY 2019 CJS Appropriations bill. State attorneys general know how legal services help veterans, seniors survivors of domestic violence, communities recovering from natural disasters. Massachusetts and Colorado were joined by Alaska, American Samoa, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, N. Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

FY 2019 HOUSE CJS APPROPRIATIONS BILL FUNDS LSC AT $410 MILLION

On May 8, the House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee released a draft of their FY 2019 bill. LSC received $410 million in funding in that bill, a continuation of the FY 2018 level. That level had been a $25 million increase from the FY 2017 level of $385 million. On May 9, during the subcommittee markup, this amount passed through committee unchanged, and no amendments were brought up regarding LSC.

April 2018

ABA PRESIDENT SUBMITS WRITTEN TESTIMONY TO HOUSE CJS ON LSC

On April 27, ABA President Hilarie Bass submitted testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in support of funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The testimony expresses the ever-growing need for legal services in the new justice gap study, the opioid crisis, and in recent natural disasters. It also emphasizes the federal role in justice for all, recommends against placing an unfunded mandate for legal services on states and localities, and notes the complementary role legal services plays for the Congressional offices’ constituent services representatives.

DOJ OFFICE FOR ACCESS TO JUSTICE CLOSES

On April 18, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Office for Access to Justice closed. The Office for Access to Justice last employee transfered to the Office of Tribal Justice. The Office of Legal Policy (OLP) within DOJ is now the principal policy and legislative point of contact for access to justice issues. OLP can be reached at 202-514-4601.  You can find more information at https://www.justice.gov/olp/mission.

251 CORPORATE GENERAL COUNSEL SEND LETTER IN SUPPORT OF LSC

On April 17, 251 corporate general counsel sent a letter to Congress in support of LSC, an increase in sign ons over last year. These companies include Walmart, Comcast, Walt Disney, LinkedIn, Ford Motors, among others. The letter notes that as corporate leaders, the general counsel recognize that the problems affecting our communities directly impact the success of businesses. LSC grantees help families gain a foothold in the middle class, strengthening the local workforce and economy. Read the letter here.

CHANGES TO SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE 

On April 9, 2018, Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) was approved by his Republican colleagues as Appropriations Chairman for the remainder of the 115th Congress. The retirement of Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) for health reasons prompted the change. Cindy Hyde-Smith was sworn in as the new Senator from Mississippi and was assigned to the Appropriations Committee. Upon Senator Shelby’s departure from chairing the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) was named the new Chair. The new subcommittee membership is as follows:

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman
Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)
Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)
Susan Collins (R-Maine)
Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)
John Boozman (R-Ark.)
Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.)
James Lankford (R-Okla.)
John Kennedy (R-La.)

Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Ranking Member
Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
Jack Reed (D-R.I.)
Chris Coons (D-Del.)
Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)
Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)
Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

All others remain the same:

Commerce-Justice-Science: Jerry Moran, R-Kan. (previously Shelby)

Defense: Shelby (previously Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who resigned April 1)

Financial Services: James Lankford, R-Okla. (previously Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.)

Homeland Security: Capito (previously John Boozman, R-Ark.)

Legislative Branch: Steve Daines, R-Mont. (previously Lankford)

Military Construction-VA: Boozman (previously Moran)

Once the GOP conference and full Senate formally approves Shelby as chairman, expected later Tuesday, the new slate of subcommittee chairmanships will be official

ABA OPPOSES RESCISSION

On April 6, 2018, Tom Susman, Director of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, wrote to the U.S. Senate to express opposition to proposed rescission legislation being reported in the media. News reports assert that U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has been working on a list of appropriations that would be rescinded from the omnibus appropriations bill enacted on March 23, 2018. The letter noted that many programs such as the Legal Services Corporation received favorable treatment in the omnibus appropriations act and advised against breaching the delicately negotiated appropriations agreement.

ABA REQUESTS APPROPRIATIONS SUPPORT

On April 6, 2018, Tom Susman, Director of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office, wrote to U.S. Senators requesting their signatures on “Dear Colleague” letters requesting funding for the Legal Services Corporation for legal aid to the indigent and for the John R. Justice Act program provides student loan repayment assistance for prosecutors and public defenders in exchange for a renewable three-year service commitment. American Bar Association policy 13M10A urges Congress to fund the Legal Services Corporation to meet the needs of our country’s most vulnerable individuals. American Bar Association policy 10M102J urges Congress to fund the John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act to cover the actual national need.

BUDGET AND APPROPRIATIONS PROCESS FOR FISCAL YEAR 2019

In practice, Congress has moved to biennial budgeting in recent years. For Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, the budgets were set on 2/9/2018.

The normal budget process calls for the U.S. House and Senate Budget Committees to consider the Administration’s annual budget proposal and then to produce an annual budget establishing the total amount of discretionary spending for the fiscal year beginning October 1st and ending September 30th. However, the Administration submitted the Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal to Congress on 2/12/2018, three days after the FY2019 budget was set.

Fiscal Year 2019 defense spending and non-defense spending will increase by $5 billion each over the Fiscal Year 2018 levels.

At this point, the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees can begin writing the 12 appropriations bills that set the spending for the federal government.

In recent years, the 12 appropriations bills have routinely been bundled into an omnibus appropriations bill.

Appropriations bills are supposed to be completed before the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st, but the deadlines are regularly breached, necessitating continuing resolutions (CRs) that fund government through a new deadline. Congress often needs 4 or 5 CRs per year before the final appropriations bills can be enacted.

March 2018

OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS ACT INCREASES LSC FUNDING $25 MILLION DESPITE ADMINISTRATION’S PROPOSED ELIMINATION

On March 23rd, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations act (H.R. 1625 and PL 115-141) including $410 million for the Legal Services Corporation—a $25 million increase over Fiscal Year 2017. The Fiscal Year 2018 funding increase stands in stark contrast to the Administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation.

“DEAR COLLEAGUE” LETTER FOR LSC FUNDING SENT TO HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

On March 16, 2018, 181 Members of Congress, up from 148 last year, signed on to a letter to the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee urging the subcommittee to robustly fund the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) for FY19. The letter included 30 Republican House members, an increase of 20 from last year, demonstrating the increased importance and bipartisanship of LSC funding.

February 2018

ADMINISTRATION’S FY2019 BUDGET RELEASED, PROPOSES TO ELIMINATE LSC

On February 12th, 2018, in the Administration’s FY2019 budget, the Administration for the second year in a row proposed to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation.

CONTINUING RESOLUTION GIVES LSC $15 MILLION FOR DISASTER RELIEF AND SETS FY2018 AND 2019 BUDGET LEVELS

On February 9th, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892 and PL 115-123) was signed into law with additional funding for LSC disaster relief services.

  • This budget deal raises discretionary spending caps by a total of $296 billion in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, including $165 billion for defense ($80 billion in fiscal year 2018; $85 billion in 2019) and $131 billion for nondefense ($63 billion in 2018; $68 billion in 2019).
  • With the 2019 budget levels thus already completed, for the next 12 months the U.S. Senate and House Budget Committees, along with the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform created in this legislation, will focus on budget process reform.
  • As part of this legislation, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) will receive $15 million for mobile resources, technology, and legal services necessary to help individuals affected by 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and 2017 wildfires. That $15 million is an increase of $14 million over the $1 million in emergency disaster funding previously proposed in legislation for LSC. LSC had requested $22.5 million in disaster funding for 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. The LSC requests had been for the hurricanes, so making the funds additionally available for the 2017 wildfires was a further positive move.
  • The continuing resolution continued funding through March 23, 2018.

January 2018

CR PASSES HOUSE AND SENATE ENDING GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

On January 22, 2018, the House and Senate passed HR 195 to continue funding the government at FY 2017 levels through February 8. This is the fourth continuing resolution to pass, the first three occurring on September 8, December 7, and December 21. The government briefly shut down for 3 days when the Senate failed to pass HR 195 on January 19.

November 2017

17 ANTI-DV ORGANIZATIONS SIGN ON TO LSC SUPPORT LETTER

On November 14, 2017, 17 organizations that represent domestic and sexual violence victims around the country sent a letter to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. In the letter, these organizations urged Congress to seek increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation.

October 2017

SENATE PASSES HOUSE BUDGET RESOLUTION

On October 19, 2017, the Senate passed the House Budget resolution, voting 51-49. This resolution contained a report calling for the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation using the same language as several previous years. State and local bars should be concerned about the sentence in the report that states, ‘It is the duty of State and local governments to provide legal services to those individuals unable to provide it for themselves.’ It is time to pursue corrective action through organizations such as the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the Urban League, et cetera. Please see the report language here.

September 2017

ABA LETTERS THANKING MEMBERS FOR COMMENTS ON LSC ON THE HOUSE FLOOR

On September 25, 2017, ABA President Hilarie Bass sent thank you letters to Congressman Fitzpatrick, (R-PA), Congressman Cohen (D-TN), Congresswoman Brooks (R-IN), Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee. In the letters, President Bass thanked the members for their bipartisan support on the floor of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and its work and funding.

HOUSE OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS PACKAGE PASSES

On September 14, 2017, the omnibus appropriations package passed the House by a roll call vote. 211-198. This package included the CJS bill, which funded LSC at $300 million, an $85 million cut from FY2017.

LSC AMENDMENT DISCUSSED ON HOUSE FLOOR

On September 12, Congressmen Cohen (D-TN) and Fitzpatrick (R-PA) offered and then withdrew an amendment on the House floor which would have increased LSC appropriations by $10 million. In addition, Congresswoman Brooks (R-IN), Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Subcommittee Ranking Member Serrano (D-NY), and CJS Subcommittee Chairman Culberson (R-TX) spoke in support of LSC. Chairman Culberson thanked the Congressmen for withdrawing an amendment, hoping to find more support for LSC in conference after reaching a budget agreement. Watch the video here.

LSC SUBMITS SUPPLEMENTAL REQUEST TO HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS FOR HURRICANE HARVEY

The Legal Services Corporations submitted a supplemental request to the House Appropriations Committee for $10.5 million on September 5, 2017. These funds would be used to provide legal services to disaster survivors in the affected areas of Texas and Louisiana for both short-term and long-term assistance.

August 2017

52 CHILDREN'S ORGANIZATIONS SIGN ON TO LSC SUPPORT LETTER

On August 25, 2017, 52 organizations that represent children's interests around the country sent a letter to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. In the letter, these organizations urged Congress to abundantly fund the Legal Services Corporation.

July 2017

TEN WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS SENDS LSC SUPPORT LETTER TO CONGRESS

On July 21, a coalition of women's organizations sent a letter about the importance of LSC funding for women's welfare. 10 organizations signed in support of LSC.

ABA LETTER THANKING CHAIRMAN CULBERSON FOR COMMENTS ON LSC DURING FULL COMMITTEE MARKUP

On July 20, 2017, ABA President Linda Klein sent a letter to the Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee in the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. In the letter, President Klein thanked Chairman Culberson for his comments at the full committee markup about the importance of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and its work and funding.

June 2017

NINE VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS ACTIVE IN DISASTER SENDS LSC SUPPORT LETTER TO CONGRESS

On June 29, the National Organizations Active in Disaster sent a letter about the importance of LSC funding for emergency management and disaster response framework. 9 organizations signed in support of LSC.

LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION FINANCE COMMITTEE RECEIVES FY2019 REQUEST

On June 26,  the Finance Committee of the LSC Board of Directors received the Management’s Recommendation for LSC’s FY2019 LSC Budget Request to Congress. In a memo, the management recommended $615.9 million based on the new Justice Gap report, which demonstrated an increase in eligible household that have at least one civil legal problem per year. The $615.9 million would allow LSC grantees to serve 3.35% more households in 2019 than they are projected to serve in 2017. LSC management conservatively based their recommendation on the case closings data and on the number of people eligible for a full year, as opposed to also including those eligible for part of the year. Based on the Justice Gap Report’s 2017 intake census, rather than on case closings, the American Bar Association had recommended a higher number of at least $653 million. The National Legal Aid and Defender Association had recommended $669 million at a minimum, based on the number of legal problems totally unserved and served inadequately. LSC’s Management Recommendation will receive a vote next month.

LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION RELEASES JUSTICE GAP IN AMERICA REPORT

On June 14, the Legal Services Corporation released their new study of the “justice gap”—the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet them. In the past year, 71% of families eligible for a full year experienced at least one civil legal problem, as opposed to last year’s assumption of 45%. In addition, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans in the past year received inadequate or no legal help. 

May 2017

CONGRESSMEN REQUEST DATA ON PRO SE LITIGATION

On May 25, a balanced group of six Congressmen—Trey Gowdy, Joe Kennedy, John Ratliffe, Steve Cohen, Pat Meehan, and Bobby Scott—wrote to the Department of Justice requesting a study of pro se litigants, including how many proceed pro se and how they fare compared to litigants with lawyers.

NINETEEN CHILDREN’S ORGANIZATIONS WRITE FOR LSC FUNDING

On May 5, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities circulated a letter about the importance of LSC funding for children’s welfare. A resounding 19 organizations signed in support of LSC.