Posted Jul 19, 2011 02:50 pm CDT
Legal services programs are weighing some painful choices in light of a proposed 26 percent cut in federal funding.
The proposal to cut $104 million in funding follows Congress’ decision in April to impose a 4 percent midyear cut in LSC funding, the National Law Journal reports. If the cuts are imposed, legal aid funding will return to 1999 levels, even as demand is soaring, Mother Jones reports. Legal aid budgets have also been hit by reduced state funding and a drop in interest on lawyer trust accounts.
Melville “De” Miller Jr., president of Legal Services of New Jersey, told the NLJ the number of legal services workers in his state has dropped to 490 from 720, and more staff reductions are likely. He is weighing office closings, restrictions on cases handled, and a lower cutoff based on income eligibility.
ABA President Stephen N. Zack issued a statement on July 7 that criticized a subcommittee vote to slash funding. “Here is an important question to ask in the wake of today’s vote: The next time a major natural disaster strikes, where should its victims turn for legal assistance in putting their lives back together?” he asked. “Because today’s cuts will decimate the operations of the local legal aid providers that normally step in to help. … Congress should look for savings in programs that don’t work. LSC works for millions of Americans across the country every year.”
ABAJournal.com: “Lawyers May Need to Increase Pro Bono Work to Make Up for Legal Aid Cuts, Congressman Says”