June 30, 2017

Statement of ABA President Linda A. Klein Re: House proposal for Legal Services Corporation funding

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2017 — The American Bar Association calls on the Senate to increase funding for the Legal Services Corporation so that more people with civil legal problems can receive justice through its services. The ABA is disappointed in the LSC funding level proposed for fiscal year 2018 by the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. The $300 million proposed by the committee is $85 million less than what the full Congress appropriated for LSC in FY 2017.

The ABA, which represents more than 400,000 members, urges the Senate to increase this funding amount to the $527.8 million requested by LSC so they can better fulfill the pledge of equal justice under law. More than 30 cost-benefit analyses have demonstrated the substantial cost-efficacy of the program, so it is money well-spent.

The House proposal would represent a 24 percent cut in grants from FY 2017 and result in more people shut out of legal representation when the number of Americans eligible for help (income for a family of four less than $30,750) is at an all-time high of more than 60 million. 

LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid programs in the United States, supporting 133 organizations and serving every congressional district. A report released this month by the University of Chicago found 71 percent of low-income families experienced at least one civil legal problem last year, but 86 percent of those problems received inadequate or no legal help. Much of this justice gap is due to insufficient funding.

People with civil legal problems include survivors of domestic violence or sexual abuse, veterans trying to secure benefits, people looking to improve housing conditions and health care and victims of natural disasters. Federal funds are critical in bridging the gap that volunteer lawyers and private and state funding cannot meet.

The federal role in equal justice under law is vital. The ABA strongly believes that everyone should have access to justice and representation in our legal system. A fully funded LSC helps achieve that goal.

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at www.americanbar.org/news and on Twitter @ABANews.