Coalition Letter in Suport of Civil Access to Justice Act

Over 150 national, state and local groups sign onto letter supporting passage of bill to reauthorize the Legal Services Corporation

February 12, 2010

Download a PDF of the letter.

 

Dear Senators and Members of Congress:

We write to urge your support for the Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009 (S.718, H.R. 3764), an Act that would reauthorize and revitalize the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the backbone of our nation’s civil legal aid system.  LSC is a non-profit corporation created by Congress in 1974.  Funded by the federal government, LSC grants money to local legal services programs in every state, which, in turn, assist low-income families with the civil legal issues they may face – protecting spouses and children from domestic violence, fighting predatory lenders, saving homes from foreclosure, ensuring child support payments, and helping seniors and the disabled obtain necessary benefits.

LSC is in need of revitalization.  Severely underfunded, LSC reports that more than half of all eligible clients who seek legal help from LSC-funded programs are turned away due to insufficient resources.  Additionally, LSC-funded programs’ ability to help their clients is hampered by outdated restrictions, imposed in the mid-1990s. 

The Civil Access to Justice Act would reauthorize LSC for the first time in over 30 years and would expand access to justice for the poor during this time of extraordinary need.  The bill would: 1) expand access to justice by authorizing $750 million in annual funding for LSC, the level necessary to return to the high water mark for funding reached in 1981, the last time a minimum level of access to LSC services was achieved; 2) lift a number of overreaching restrictions that prevent LSC grantees from most efficiently and effectively serving their clients; and 3) improve oversight and governance of LSC.

As the nation continues to reel from the economic crisis, civil legal aid has never been more important.  More and more of our nation’s families are turning to the courts with pressing civil legal needs, and both individuals and society suffer when these issues are left unresolved, or resolved unfavorably.  With the courts and legal aid programs now overwhelmed, Congress must act to help low-income individuals access and navigate the courts, which oftentimes is only possible with the help of a legal aid lawyer.

The Civil Access to Justice Act goes a long way toward renewing our promise to “equal justice for all” and ensuring that our neighbors are able to obtain the services they need to meaningfully access the courts.  Please support this legislation to reauthorize and revitalize LSC.[1]  

Sincerely, 

National Organizations

AARP

Alliance for Justice

American Civil Liberties Union

American Judicature Society

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Boat People SOS

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

Campaign for Community Change (CCC)

Center for Law and Social Policy

Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest

Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc.

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation

Equal Justice Society

Equal Justice Works

Evangelicals for Social Action

Garvey Schubert Barer

Independent Sector

Insight Center for Community Economic Development

International Center for Civil Society Law

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest

Lowenstein Sandler PC

Medicare Rights Center

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

National Association of Counsel for Children

National Association of IOLTA Programs

National Center for Law and Economic Justice

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy

National Consumer Law Center

National Employment Law Project

National Housing Law Project

National Immigration Law Center

National Legal Aid & Defender Association

National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives

National Senior Citizens Law Center

National Women's Law Center

OMB Watch

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP

Service Employees International Union

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

UAW International and Local 2320, the National Organization of Legal Services Workers

Workplace Fairness

Youth Law Center


State & Local Organizations

Access Now, Inc. ®, Florida

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE), Ohio

AIDS Legal Referral Panel, California

Alabama Civil Justice Foundation

Alameda County Bar Association, California

Alameda County Bar Association, Volunteer Legal Services Corporation, California

Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education

Asian Law Alliance, California

Asian Law Caucus, California

Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Washington D.C.

The Association of the Bar of the City of New York

Bet Tzedek Legal Services, California

The Bronx Defenders, New York

California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

California Reinvestment Coalition

California Women’s Law Center

Californians for Disability Rights, Inc.

Californians for Legal Aid

Center for Civic Values IOLTA Program, New Mexico

Center for Civil Justice, Michigan

Centro Legal de la Raza, California

Children’s Law Center, Washington D.C.

Civil Justice Clinic, University of California Hastings College of the Law

Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, Inc.

Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, Indiana

Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, California

Community Legal Services, Inc., Pennsylvania

Connecticut Bar Foundation

DC Consortium of Legal Services Providers[2]

Democratic Processes Center, Arizona

Disability Rights California

Disability Rights Legal Center, California

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania

Don't Waste Arizona

East Bay Community Law Center, California

Education Law Center of Pennsylvania

Empire Justice Center, New York

Family Violence Law Center, California

The Fund for Modern Courts, New York

Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, California

Hawaii Justice Foundation

HIV & AIDS Legal Services Alliance, California

Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc., Maryland

Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, California

The Impact Fund, California

Indiana Lawyers Committee

Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association, California

King County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Washington

La Raza Centro Legal, California

Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, California

Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois

Legal Aid Association of California

Legal Aid Justice Center, Virginia

Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, California

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

Legal Assistance of Washington County, Minnesota

Legal Foundation of Washington

Legal Information for Families Today (LIFT), New York

Legal Services Corporation of Virginia

Legal Services for Children, California

Legal Services of Southern Piedmont, North Carolina

Legal Voice, Washington

Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, California

Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry in New Jersey

Maine Bar Foundation

Maine Justice Action Group

Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Michigan Designated State Planning Body for Legal Services

Michigan Disability Rights Coalition

Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance

Minnesota Legal Services Planning Committee

Minnesota State Bar Association

Montana Access to Justice Committee

Montana Equal Justice Task Force

Montana Justice Foundation

New Jersey Association on Correction

New York State Bar Association

North Carolina Justice Center

Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation

Oregon Law Center

Oregon Law Foundation

Oregon State Bar

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Peter Edelman, Chair, District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission

Philadelphia Unemployment Project, Pennsylvania

Public Advocates, Inc., California

Public Counsel, California

Public Interest Clearinghouse, California

The Public Interest Law Project/ California Affordable Housing Law Project

Public Justice Center, Maryland

Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Washington D.C.

San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, Inc., California

Senior Citizens Legal Services of Santa Cruz & San Benito Counties, California

Social Justice Initiatives, Columbia Law School, New York

Student Advocacy, New York

Texas Access to Justice Foundation

University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law

The Utility Reform Network, California

Vermont Legal Aid

Virginia State Bar

Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Washington D.C.

Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Washington D.C.

Washington State Access to Justice Board

The Watsonville Law Center, California

Western Center on Law and Poverty, California

Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Inc.

 


[1] For more information about this letter, contact Rebekah Diller, Justice Program Deputy Director, at the Brennan Center for Justice (rebekah.diller@nyu.edu, 212.992.8635).

[2] The following members of the DC Consortium of Legal Services Providers join this letter:  The American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capitol Area; Advocates for Justice and Education; The Archdiocesan Legal Network, Catholic Charities; The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center; Ayuda, Inc.; Bread for the City;  Capital Area Immigrants Rights (CAIR) Coalition; Central American Resource Center (CARECEN); The Children’s Law Center; The Employment Justice Center;  DC Crime Victims Resource Center; DC Law Students in Court; DC Volunteer Lawyers Project; Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP); The Legal Aid Society; Legal Counsel for the Elderly; Our Place, DC; The Public Defender Service of DC; The Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities; University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law; University Legal Services; The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs; The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless; Whitman-Walker Clinic Legal Services Program; Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE).  Due to funding restrictions on advocacy, two members of the Consortium have not joined this letter:  Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) and the DC Bar Pro Bono program.