Federal Funding, Politics

Washington Supreme Court, BJA, and Oversight Committee Urge Congress to Protect LSC

By Jay Doran

The Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee, Washington Supreme Court and Washington’s Board for Judicial Administration have all urged congress to protect funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which seeks to ensure equal access to justice under the law for all Americans by providing civil legal assistance to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it.

In a resolution signed by Chair Jennifer Greenlee, the Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee, which is responsible for supervising the delivery of Washington state-funded legal aid, wrote, “elimination of LSC and federal financial support of civil legal aid will result in….the systemic denial of access to justice for thousands of low-income individuals and families [in Washington] each year, the closure of legal aid offices throughout the state and a corresponding loss of volunteer legal services due to the lack of support and coordination provided by LSC-funded legal aid lawyers.”

Established in 1974, LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the country. LSC promotes equal access to civil justice by funding organizations in every state to deliver high-quality legal assistance to low-income Americans. The LSC-funded grantee in Washington state is the Northwest Justice Project, which received approximately $6.5M in the past fiscal year.

Civil legal aid ensures fairness for all in the justice system regardless of how much money a person has by providing assistance in legal matters that have the potential to devastate lives. Civil legal aid programs keep families in their homes, assist veterans returning to our communities, secure safety for survivors of domestic violence, and provide a wide array of other critical services. Securing fair outcomes for legal aid clients strengthens American business by providing workers with the stability they need to be productive, and boosts local economies by helping families who are struggling get back on their feet.

In a letter dated March 29, 2016 sent to every member of the Washington state congressional delegation, Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, writes, “The first purpose of the federal constitution is to ‘establish justice.’ For 43 years, LSC has been the vehicle through which Congress worked to ensure justice and fairness for low-income individuals and families faced with civil legal problems that affect their physical safety, housing, access to critically needed services, economic security, health care, and other basic human needs.”

The Washington Supreme Court, Board for Judicial Administration, and Civil Legal Aid Oversight Committee, join many others across the country – including corporate counsels of nearly 200 companies and over 150 law firms nationwide – in expressing opposition for the administration’s proposed elimination of LSC.