For Immediate Release: March 26, 2009
Contact: Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212–998–6289
Senator Harkin Introduces Civil Access to Justice Act
Vital Legislation Will Greatly Improve Access to Civil Legal Aid
Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduces the Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009. A vitally important piece of legislation, the Act will significantly improve access to civil legal aid by removing severe litigation restrictions, increasing funding, and expanding law school clinics’ legal assistance.
In today’s dire economy, there is a growing demand for civil legal aid representation. This year alone, requests for representation have risen by 30 percent in some parts of the country and nationally, more than 80 percent of those in need of civil legal aid are turned away.
“Low-income Americans and communities of color often suffer the most,” says Rebekah Diller, Deputy Director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “And record numbers of Americans facing foreclosure, eviction and layoffs need help figuring out their legal rights and making their voices heard in court.”
Federal funding for civil legal aid has dramatically declined over the last twenty years, most drastically through the massive budget cuts suffered by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a private, non-profit corporation established by Congress in 1974. Additionally, severe restrictions have been placed upon the use of both federal as well as non-federal funds, thus impeding attorneys’ ability to provide effective legal assistance.
The Civil Access to Justice Act will increase the authorized funding level for LSC to $750 million. The Act will also lift many of the restrictions placed on the use of non-federal funds and attorneys’ fees, and will permit attorneys to bring class-action lawsuits grounded in existing law.
For more information or to set up an interview with Rebekah Diller, please contact Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212–998–6289 or email@example.com.