MAY 2019 | AROUND THE ABA

ABA pushes for legal aid, public-service loan forgiveness – How you can help (from home)

More than 340 lawyers came to Washington, D.C., from all 50 states last month to advocate for issues that affect the legal profession during ABA Day 2019.

Top issues highlighted April 9-11 included support for Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The ABA is seeking funding of $593 million for LSC’s 2020 budget. The association also opposes terminating or limiting the PSLF that reduces the burden of educational loans for lawyers who work in less-remunerative public service careers.

Each year the ABA, through its Governmental Affairs Office, coordinates ABA Day so that lawyers can make their case, as constituents, face-to-face with their congressional representatives.  The efforts work. In February, more funding ($5 million) was provided for LSC and an additional $15 million was budgeted for disaster legal aid. Last year, ABA members’ efforts were instrumental in saving the Department of Justice’s Legal Orientation Program for prospective immigrants. The orientation program provides information to people navigating the immigration process.

This year, ABA President Bob Carlson attended several visits with his home-state representatives and congressional leaders.

“ABA Day is a unique opportunity for lawyers from around the country to come to Washington and inform and educate their senators and representatives on the important issues that affect our justice system,” Carlson said. “This year, we made important headway toward securing more funding for the Legal Services Corporation and advocating for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. These efforts will assist in aiding more people in America.”

ABA Day also gives the association a chance to recognize members of Congress for their commitment to justice. This year, the ABA presented Justice Awards to Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) for his support of LSC funding; to Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) for their help saving the Legal Orientation Program; to Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) for his backing of PSLF; and Reps. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas) and Alex Mooney (R-W.V.) for their assistance in upholding the independence of the legal profession.

Sen. Shaheen thanked the lawyers of the ABA for their lobbying efforts in 2018 to save the Legal Orientation Program, adding that “due process rights should extend to everyone, not just to those who can afford them.”

At a breakfast the next morning, Virginia’s Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine promised to put forth a bill to help simplify and strengthen the PSLF. He said that there was “an assault on public service” and that the ABA was an important factor in keeping the program going. Kaine also praised the ABA for its work promoting LSC funding. “Your advocacy for legal services has helped save it,” he said.

ALERT: ABA President Bob Carlson sends testimony to Congress in support of LSC’s FY2020 request for $593 million in federal funding

How you can help

Learn more: Legal Services Corporation funding

Your efforts last year helped achieve a $5 million increase for LSC, now funded at $415 million. Still, funding is down 18 percent from inflation-adjusted Fiscal Year 2010 levels. We need your help to convince Congress to support LSC's FY2020 funding request of $593 million and reduce the level of unmet legal needs for their constituents.

Action 1: Send an email to lawmakers on LSC

Edit this pre-written email or send it “as-is” directly to your senators and representative. Just enter your name, email and home address to make an impact.

Action 2: Send a tweet to lawmakers on LSC

Edit this pre-written social media post of send it “as-is” to your senators and representative.

Learn more: Save Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The ABA opposes terminating or limiting the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that enables law school graduates to embark upon less remunerative public service careers. These public service attorneys provide critical services to their state, local and tribal communities. The District Court recently ruled in the ABA’s suit against the U.S. Department of Education, holding that the department had arbitrarily and capriciously changed its interpretation of the PSLF regulations by adopting a new standard requiring borrowers to demonstrate that their employers’ “primary purpose” was “to provide qualifying public services.”

Action 1: Send an email to lawmakers on PSLF

Edit this pre-written email or send it “as-is” directly to your senators and representative. Just enter your name, email and home address to make an impact.

Action 2: Send a tweet to lawmakers on PSLF

Edit this pre-written social media post of send it “as-is” to your senators and representative.

Join the ABA Grassroots Action Team

The Grassroots Action Team is a network of ABA members who feel strongly about what is going on in Washington and want to make an impact on the justice system. We work with you to get up to speed on the issues, coordinate with other attorneys who feel the same way as you, and equip you with the tools to move with one, solid voice. Join now.

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