April 10, 2018

ABA members come to Capitol Hill to convince lawmakers to fund legal services, loan forgiveness

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2018 — The American Bar Association will hold its annual effort to connect policymakers with constituents in the legal profession this week during its ABA Day 2018, April 11 and 12.

Lawyers from 48 states will come to Washington to speak to members of Congress and their staffs and inform them of the importance of funding Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which provides civil legal aid to nearly 1.7 million low-income people annually. These people desperately need help to navigate the legal process so they can get equal access to justice and yet far too many are turned away due to lack of resources. LSC serves the most vulnerable individuals and families in every congressional district. That includes children, seniors, veterans, victims of domestic violence and victims of disasters.

Efforts at ABA Day last year helped achieve a $385 million appropriation for LSC. This year, the goal is to convince Congress to restore funding to the inflation-adjusted Fiscal Year 2010 level of $482 million.

Lawyers also will be advocating for the preservation of the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). This program provides student loan forgiveness after 10 years of public service when applicants meet certain conditions. The ABA opposes efforts to repeal or end the program, such as in H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act, and believes there should be some government incentive to help people who choose careers in public service.

The ABA will also present four members of Congress with its annual Congressional Justice Award on April 11 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to acknowledge their leadership on issues critically important to the legal profession and the ABA. 

This year’s awardees are: 

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): The ABA honors Cornyn for his efforts to improve the American justice system, particularly for his leadership in securing funding for the Legal Services Corporation. He also is being honored for his commitment to ensuring access to justice for domestic violence and trafficking survivors and for his co-sponsorship of the Veterans Treatment Courts Improvement Act of 2017.

  • Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.): Feinstein is being honored for her support of LSC, her decades-long effort to enact sensible gun safety legislation and her commitment to ensuring that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have an opportunity to consider the ABA’s peer assessments of the professional qualifications of federal judicial nominees prior to their confirmation hearings.

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa. 8th); The ABA honors Fitzpatrick for his efforts to increase LSC funding  and his leadership in efforts to increase access to the civil justice system. Since joining Congress in 2016, he has been a staunch supporter of increased funding for LSC and has led the efforts to increase Republican support for it. In 2017, he joined with Rep. Steve Cohen (D, Tenn.) to sponsor the first-ever bipartisan amendment to increase LSC appropriations.

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif. 12th): Pelosi has spent more than 30 years in the House of Representatives serving as a powerful voice for equal justice for all and championing issues of importance to the ABA including transgender rights, marriage equality, pay equity, and immigration reform. This past year, she has strongly advocated for a path to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented persons who were brought to this country as children and have grown up here. She has also been a leader in opposing legislation that would restrict access to our civil justice system.

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