$1.6B Needed to Fight ‘Justice Gap,’ LSC Report Says
Posted Sep 30, 2009 10:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A new report by the Legal Services Corp. finds that half the people who seek legal aid from LSC-funded programs are turned away, primarily because of a lack of resources.
In raw numbers, nearly 1 million cases are turned away each year, according to a New York Times preview of the findings.
“A continuing, major justice gap exists in our nation,” LSC president Helaine Barnett writes in the introduction to the report (PDF).
Studies in seven states indicate that fewer than one in five low-income persons get the legal assistance they need. “To fund this need, the federal share must grow to be five times greater than it is now, or $1.6 billion,” the report says.
The LSC budget for the current fiscal year was increased to $390 million, up from $350.5 million last year. The report says the organization is “deeply appreciative” of the bipartisan support, but more resources are needed.
Lawyer employment figures show that only one legal aid attorney is available for every 6,415 low-income people, the report says. By comparison, there is one private lawyer providing personal legal services for every 429 people in the general population above the LSC poverty threshold.
"Many of these Americans in need of legal assistance are the most vulnerable among us," Barnett said in a press release. "They are trying to escape from domestic violence, trying to avert foreclosure and homelessness, trying to qualify for disability benefits, trying to recover from natural disasters. Legal aid saves lives and makes communities stronger."