May 16, 2019

ABA Day 2019 Recap

On April 9th-11th, over 300 ABA members and leaders of state and local bars from across the country took to Capitol Hill for the 23rd annual ABA Day.

On April 9th-11th, over 300 ABA members and state and local bar leaders from across the country took to Capitol Hill for the 23rd annual ABA Day in Washington. Every year, this event focuses on connecting ABA members face-to-face with their federal legislators to meaningfully advance the issues affecting the legal profession. This year participants focused on restoring the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding for fiscal year 2020 and on preserving the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, both of which have been targeted for elimination by the current administration.

This year also saw the launch of an online campaign that ran in conjunction with ABA Day dubbed #ABADay Digital. This campaign gave legal professionals nationwide the opportunity to support ABA members on the Hill online, as well as the ability to send advocacy messages directly to their own members of Congress. This new effort was a great success with over 39,000 people viewing the campaign, over 200 advocacy letters being sent to Capitol Hill, and over 400 advocacy messages posted using social media.   

The ABA Day program in Washington included a great list of speakers and events. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), CNN Correspondent Joey Jackson, and former Trump administration ethics lawyer Jim Schultz spoke at breakfast events, while several members of Congress attended the Justice Awards Reception and Dinner at the International Spy Museum. ABA members also enjoyed a private tour and rare book presentation at the Law Library of Congress.

During the Justice Awards dinner, six exemplary members of Congress were honored for their continued dedication to promoting access to justice. The honorees included Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) and Representative Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX).During the Justice Awards, several exemplary members of Congress were honored for their continued dedication to promoting access to justice. The honorees included Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Representative Steve Stivers (R-OH), Representative Alex Mooney (R-WV) and Representative Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX).

Throughout the event, ABA members and state and local bar leaders spoke with their representatives about restoring LSC funding for fiscal year 2020. The ABA fully supports LSC’s funding request of $593 million to better help those in need get the legal representation they deserve. As a 501(c)3 that promotes equal access, LSC is extremely efficient with the use of tax dollars. Every district in the United States is served by LSC and 94% of its funds go directly to grantees. On May 16, the House Appropriations Committee Chair released his proposal to give $550 million in funding to LSC for fiscl year 2020. If passed by the House, this proposal would still need Senate action.

ABA members and bar leaders also fought to preserve the PSLF program. Created in 2007, this program helps communities struggling to attract teachers, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals with high student loan debts to get the services they need despite offering only low starting salaries. Without the PSLF program, many professionals could not afford to take public service jobs. In November 2017, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association surveyed 3,369 justice system lawyers and found that 87% of them were “much more likely” to accept a job that offered PSLF, while 50% would be “very likely” or “certain” to leave their jobs without PSLF.

As of 2013, the average law school debt for private schools was $122,000 and $84,000 for public schools. Despite Congress’ appropriating $370 million in 2018 to fund the PSLF program, the Department of Education forgave only $12 million in student debt for those public servants who made the required 10 years of student loan payments. When speaking during ABA Day participants, Senator Tim Kaine said that he had just introduced a bill to help simplify and improve the PSLF program.

To receive updates on ABA Day 2020 or to hear when a federal campaign needs your support, join the Grassroots Action Team by contacting Eric Storey at eric.storey@americanbar.org

Follow @ABAGrassroots on Twitter for year-round legislative updates.

For more information on ABA Day 2019, click here.