Voices of the Bar 3/23/17: Why is federal funding for legal aid important?

This week, we are reaching out to members at legal services organizations and members who subscribe to our Legal Services Section to hear your thoughts on the importance of funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).

As you have likely seen in the news, President Trump’s budget proposes to eliminate the LSC, and federal funding for legal aid along with it. While the federal budget process is only just getting underway, we have heard concerns from many our partners in the legal community. We wanted to give members the chance to speak out on this issue.

“Why is federal funding for legal aid important?

Jayne Tyrrell – Massachusetts IOLTA Committee
“Legal services programs in every state, including Massachusetts, provide critically needed legal assistance to prevent illegal foreclosures and evictions, domestic violence, financial abuse and other injustices for struggling students, families, veterans and seniors.

In addition to de-funding civil legal aid, the President’s proposed budget would eliminate or deeply cut many other programs that help vulnerable residents, including, heating subsidies, work-study, housing assistance, health care, job training, education, work safety programs and Meals on Wheels as well as grants to banks and credit unions that support financial services in underserved communities. Legal services programs play a valuable role as a safety net for low-income people, advocating on their behalf in court, with administrative agencies and with lawmakers.”

Rebecca Cazabon – Foley Hoag
“The Legal Services Corporation provides essential grants to local legal aid agencies in every state in the United States. LSC-funded legal aid organizations successfully partner with private law firms, such as mine, screening cases for financial eligibility and merit, providing training, and supervising pro bono lawyers, which enables law firms to take cases. Eliminating federal funding for legal aid would have a devastating impact on the most vulnerable low-income individuals and families in Massachusetts and elsewhere, who depend on free legal help.  In addition, cutting federal funding for civil legal aid would make it nearly impossible for law firms to continue to represent domestic violence survivors, veterans seeking benefits, families being unfairly evicted, and others most in need.”

Suzanne Elovecky – Todd & Weld
“Federal Funding for legal aid is vital because it (a) provides access to the legal system for those with limited resources, (b) ensures that our court system is not a privilege only for the elite, and (c) it evidences that we – as a society – advocate for all persons to have access to the systems of our government.  Through legal aid funding, those with limited resources are given more opportunities to pursue their rights in important areas, such as family well-being, health, safety, housing and livelihood.”

If you would like to respond to a future Voices of the Bar, make sure you send a headshot, and contact Lauren DiTullio at lditullio@bostonbar.org.