The State of Legal Aid to the Poor


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“A Legal Emergency Room for the Poor”

On Friday, June 15th NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story spotlighting how budget cuts to legal aid programs are making it harder for poor people to get justice. The story, which includes an interview with Legal Services Corporation President James Sandman, is part of a short series about cuts to legal aid by reporter Carrie Johnson.

To listen to a rebroadcast of this Morning Edition show online, click here to visit National Public Radio’s Morning Edition web-page.

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White House Hosts “State of Legal Assistance” Forum

On April 17, 2012, the White House hosted a national forum on civil legal aid entitled “The State of Legal Assistance.” Government leaders, judges, pro bono attorneys, and legal aid attorneys and advocates convened to discuss the legal challenges facing underserved groups such low-income families, veterans, the elderly, and people with disabilities. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) moderated the forum, which addressed access to civil justice in the wake of the economic recession and the lasting repercussions for the poor.

According to a 2009 LSC study, less than 20% of legal problems experienced by poor people are addressed with the help of an attorney. The forum’s speakers and attendees took a critical look at the American promise of “justice for all” and the country’s commitment to the rule of law.

President Barack Obama was among the speakers at the event, where he said that the availability of civil legal assistance to low-income Americans is “central to our notion of equal justice under the law.” The President also promised to be a “fierce defender and advocate” for legal services.

LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi spoke on the importance of supporting civil legal services for the poor. Levi said, “We simply cannot let our civil justice system collapse. Our nation has promised equal justice for all.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder commented on the resiliency of legal aid providers, saying, “[W]hen funding for aid programs is […] on the chopping block – the urgency of this crisis has been brought into stark focus. […] You’re stretching every dollar. You’re seeking ways to amplify the impact of every resource[.]”

To hear more from speakers at “The State of Legal Assistance” forum, including Levi, Holder, and a panel of Executive Directors from LSC grantee legal aid programs, click here.

Learn more about the forum here.  You can also read more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative here.

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