American Bar Association
ABA Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Support Federal Legal Aid for Poor
Posted Apr 20, 2009 9:14 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Two-thirds of Americans polled by the ABA support federal funding to help those who need legal assistance.
An ABA press release says the poll (PDF) found support for funding for the Legal Services Corp., with 88 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat supporting the idea that a nonprofit legal services provider is essential to help those who can’t afford to pay for lawyers. More than two-thirds said it's extremely or very important that Americans have access to legal resources and advice when they are in crisis.
More than 1,000 people were surveyed in early April by Harris Interactive for the ABA poll.
The recession is sending a new wave of clients to Legal Services Corp. offices, according to the press release. Many clients are seeking help to avoid foreclosures and to deal with late payments on medical bills, cars, credit cards and child support.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced legislation in March to that would nearly double the budget for the Legal Services Corp. and lift restrictions on the type of cases it can handle, the Washington Post reports. The ABA supports the legislation, the Post says.
The ABA poll found that the respondents themselves fear they will need legal advice as a result of the recession. Fifty-three percent said their financial situation had worsened in the past six months, and 49 percent are at least somewhat concerned they might need legal help as a result.
“For many Americans, their financial problems are becoming legal problems,” ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. said in the press release. The full survey results are available online (PDF).