State high court justices ask their senators to preserve funding for the Legal Services Corp.
Justices of at least two state supreme courts have asked their states’ senators to fight a proposal by President Donald Trump’s administration to revoke all funding for the Legal Services Corp.
Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor sent a letter in March to her state’s two senators and congressional delegation opposing the proposal in the president’s “skinny budget,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday. O’Connor said LSC provided more than a fourth of the Ohio legal aid budget in 2015, and that one in five Ohioans qualifies for legal aid. Ending LSC would end vital civil legal services for those people, she noted.
That report came not long after all seven of the current justices of the Montana Supreme Court—plus eight retired justices—sent a letter to their own senators, KTVH reported. The letter encourages the senators to strongly support LSC and the Corporation for National and Community Service, which coordinates national service programs like AmeriCorps.
“Together, these programs help meet a vital need in a Montana court system that is simply overwhelmed with record-setting caseloads, self-represented litigants, and alarming increases in time-intensive cases involving abused and neglected children,” the justices wrote. “The plain truth is that [the Montana Legal Services Association] and AmeriCorps’ Justice For Montanans Program are an incredibly effective use of a small amount of federal dollars.”
The ABA strongly opposes the move to eliminate LSC. The proposal has also been criticized by major law firms, some law deans and some general counsel of major corporations.
It’s not clear yet whether Congress will eliminate the program. LSC President Jim Sandman said in March that he expected Congress to ignore the president’s request. Jonathan Lippman, former Chief Judge of New York’s highest court, made similar remarks in March, the Times Union reported at the time.
“We just cannot let this happen … it’s a disgrace,” Lippman told the Albany Times Union. “It would be destructive to human beings’ lives.”