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February 26, 2024

An Unwavering Commitment to Justice

ABA Advocacy for LSC Funding

Established in 1974, the LSC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal aid.

Established in 1974, the LSC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal aid.

Over the last half century, the ABA has been a steadfast advocate for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), actively working to fulfill its mission of addressing the civil legal needs of vulnerable Americans and upholding America’s commitment to “justice for all.”

Established in 1974, the LSC is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year as the nation’s single largest funder of civil legal aid for low-income Americans. LSC organizations help victims of domestic violence by obtaining protective and restraining orders, help parents obtain and keep custody of their children, represent renters and homeowners, and assist veterans and military families seeking access to the military benefits they are owed.

The ABA has been a longstanding leader in championing federally funded civil legal aid, a commitment predating the LSC. Support from the ABA was critical to the creation of a federal legal services program as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

An ABA study committee, convened in 1971, recommended a private, nonprofit corporation to receive federal funds and distribute them to local legal service programs. Former United States Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, who also served as ABA president in 1964, ardently advocated for every American’s right to seek justice within our legal system and supported the adoption of the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974. After Congress established LSC as the centralized entity to receive federal funds for civil legal aid nationwide, the ABA participated in the umbrella group that developed model regulations for the organization.

Since then, the ABA has actively worked to secure robust funding for the LSC, thanks to the coordinated efforts of the ABA Governmental Affairs Office (GAO), the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense, and state and local bar associations. It has also staunchly opposed attempts to reduce or eliminate funding for the program. At the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting, LSC Chair John G. Levi praised the ABA as a “stalwart ally and partner.”

Robust LSC funding is urgently needed to help protect the most vulnerable members of society. However, despite having bipartisan support in Congress, the LSC’s limited resources force local offices to turn away more than half of all eligible applicants, while the number of Americans who qualify for federally funded legal assistance grows. 

In FY 2023, the ABA used testimony, letters, in-person meetings, and grassroots engagement to advocate for LSC funding, and the organization received a $71 million increase over FY 2022 to $560 million. During the pandemic, the ABA advocated for emergency LSC funding to aid those impacted by COVID-19, and, in 2021, it supported additional disaster relief funding to LSC, which Congress ultimately provided

LSC funding has been a primary focus of recent association-wide advocacy efforts at ABA Day and will be again at this year’s event from April 9-11, 2024. Organized by GAO, ABA Day is an annual conference that brings together leaders of the ABA, as well as state and local bar leaders nationwide, to advance policy issues important to the legal profession on Capitol Hill. In celebration of the LSC’s 50th anniversary, special events are being planned for April 9th.

In conjunction with ABA Day, GAO creates online advocacy campaigns addressing the event’s priority issues that include an online digital toolkit allowing members to connect directly with their elected officials and provide them with resources to take immediate action, like prewritten emails, social media resources, and state-specific talking points.

The ABA is grateful to the LSC’s many champions in Washington, D.C. Together, we will continue to work with Congress and presidential administrations to increase federal funding for LSC as it seeks to uphold America’s pledge to every citizen for equal justice under the law.

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