Last week, in his budget proposal to Congress, the President called for the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). LSC is the single largest funder of legal aid for people who cannot afford a lawyer.
Let’s imagine for a second what would have happened without LSC funding in 2014 (the year with the most recent data). Hundreds of thousands of domestic violence survivors would not have had access to legal help while seeking protective orders and custody of their children; more than 120,000 veterans and family members would not have had the legal assistance that they so desperately needed; and the 1.9 million people served in over 750,000 cases closes by LSC grantees would have been on their own. And, while we are all primarily concerned about our fellow citizens having access to justice, let’s not forget that LSC funds hundreds legal aid jobs across the country.
As ABA President Linda Klein said last week, “The American Bar Association is outraged that the administration proposes to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation in its budget and calls on every member of Congress to restore full funding.”
That’s where you come in!
Please join me and thousands of others and sign up to be a Legal Aid Defender. When you sign up, we will create and print your personalized Defender card. Then, legal aid advocates from every state are going to hand-deliver your card to your Members of Congress.
I hear from a lot of people – especially young people – who think that their voice doesn’t matter in Washington. Let me assure you, it does! I wouldn’t be dedicating my time to engaging constituents in the legislative process if your voice didn’t matter. I genuinely can’t wait for our legal aid advocates to hand over stacks of cards with messages from real constituents when they go up to the Hill a few weeks from now. This really is a great opportunity for you to get your message in front of your Members of Congress where it cannot be ignored like a message received by an intern or answering machine. It’s up to us to save LSC and make sure that everyone has equal access to the justice system, regardless of how much money they have.
I also encourage you to get as many of your friends, colleagues and fellow students to join us in this fight. Be creative, think outside the box. I invite you to take ownership of this campaign and make it yours. We need as many people as possible to enlist as Legal Aid Defenders to ensure that our message is heard loud and clear.
I’m sure that your Twitter and Facebook feeds are clogged with various campaigns going on right now (I know mine is). But, when it comes to the ABA and the legal profession, funding civil legal services is at the top of the list. We are confident that this unique campaign will cut through the noise, and I personally promise that your card and message will be printed and hand-delivered to your three Members of Congress. I also promise that none of your information will be shared with anyone else or used in any other way.
I am a passionate Legal Aid Defender and I hope that you will be too.
You can learn more about legal aid at HelpLegalAid.org.
Talking Points: LSC
- Funding for the Legal Services Corporation only accounts for 1/10,000th of the total federal budget.
- Every year, LSC provides legal aid for 1.9 million individuals and their families.
- LSC grantees provide civil legal aid for the poor, addressing matters involving safety, subsistence, and family stability.
- In 2015, LSC grantees served households with veterans in 44,569 cases.
- Most legal aid practices are focused on family law, including domestic violence, child support, and custody, and housing matters, including evictions and foreclosures.
- Over 115,000 cases closed by LSC grantees in 2015 involved domestic violence.
- Nearly one-third of all cases closed by LSC grantees are family law cases. LSC grantees help parents obtain and keep custody of their children, assist family members secure guardianship of orphaned and abused children, and help victims of domestic violence secure protective orders.
- By renegotiating mortgages, resolving landlord-tenant disputes, and assisting renters facing wrongful eviction and property foreclosure, LSC grantees help clients stay in their homes.
- Almost 70 percent of all cases closed by LSC grantees in 2015 involved women.
- Elder clients often require legal assistance because of special health, income, and social needs, such as accessing the government-administered benefits on which many depend for income and health care.
- LSC grantees operate 812 offices throughout the United States and its territories.
Step 1: Sign up to be a Legal Aid Defender. Stand up for legal services by entering your information to become a Legal Aid Defender.
Step 2: Create your card by submitting your headshot or selfie and your personal message for your Members of Congress.
Step 3: Your Defender card will be hand-delivered to your Members of Congress in Washington, DC by a legal aid advocate from your state.