Executive Branch

ABA president says Trump's plan to defund the Legal Services Corp. 'should be dead on arrival'

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Legal Services Corp. logo/Twitter.

Updated: President Donald Trump is pushing once again to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corp.

Trump proposed defunding the group on Monday in his budget plan for fiscal 2019, report the Litigation Daily and the Hill.

ABA President Hilarie Bass issued a statement Friday saying the administration’s latest proposal to defund the LSC “is unwarranted and should be dead on arrival.”

The president also sought to cut all funds to the LSC last year. In continuing budget resolutions, Congress has kept the LSC budget at last year’s level of $385 million for fiscal 2018, and added $15 million to fund legal services for victims of natural disasters.

The ABA had mounted a large-scale campaign last year to keep funding for the LSC. The association launched a social media campaign in defense of the LSC, then-ABA President Linda A. Klein testified to Congress in support of funding, and the ABA Annual Meeting featured a rally in which Broadway performers sang and voiced support for the LSC.

The LSC is the nation’s largest single funder of civil legal aid for low-income people, according to a LSC press release. It is seeking $564.8 million for fiscal 2019, representing an increase of $37 million over last year’s request.

In her statement on Friday, Bass said the LSC’s work has strong bipartisan support. “The success of the federal funding used to provide legal access to nearly 1.9 million veterans, seniors, domestic violence survivors, natural disaster victims, rural inhabitants and others has been confirmed in more than 30 cost-benefit analyses,” she said. “What’s more, these studies show that every federal dollar spent on legal aid returns to communities more than three times as much in benefits such as social services.”

“The vast unmet need for legal services nationwide argues for a funding increase for this important program. At a bare minimum, continued funding of the Legal Services Corporation is critical to fulfilling our nation’s promise of justice for all and equal justice under the law.”

Updated on Feb. 16 to change the headline and add Bass’ statement.

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