The End of Funding for the Legal Services Corporation?

The proposed budget submitted by President Trump on March 16, 2017 includes a total defunding of the Legal Services Corporation. This entity was founded in 1974 and provides grants to legal aid organizations throughout the United States to help them provide legal services to the poor — “the poor” being defined here as those earning 125% or less of the federal poverty level. The legal aid organizations, in turn, use volunteer attorneys and other legal professionals to provide legal representation to those who could not afford to hire a private attorney. Legal aid organizations usually spend a great deal of their time and money on family law (divorces, child custody, domestic violence), consumer law, and housing (evictions and foreclosures).

The American Bar Association has issued a strong warning that defunding the Legal Services Corporation may have negative consequences both for the poor who use legal aid and for society as a whole. Among the 1.9 million people who use services funded by the Legal Services Corporation are veterans with housing difficulties, seniors who are victimized by scam artists, and people who live in rural areas. The Legal Services Corporation has generally received bipartisan support.

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