Skip Navigation

A Call to End Federal Restrictions on Legal Aid for the Poor

  • Rebekah Diller
  • Emily Savner
Published: June 22, 2009

Created thirty-five years ago under Pres­id­ent Nixon, the Legal Services Corpor­a­tion (“LSC”) helps poor famil­ies obtain access to the courts when they face press­ing civil legal matters.  More than 900,000 people are helped each year by the lawyers in LSC-funded programs across the coun­try.  With LSC-funded lawyers at their side, people can obtain protec­tion from abus­ive spouses, retain custody of their chil­dren, fight unlaw­ful employ­ment prac­tices and even save their homes from fore­clos­ure.  But a set of federal fund­ing restric­tions is severely under­cut­ting this import­ant work, and doing so in the midst of an unpre­ced­en­ted national finan­cial crisis.  The time has come to elim­in­ate the most severe of the LSC fund­ing restric­tions.

A sign of the program’s success in repres­ent­ing poor people, LSC came under attack in the mid-1990's as part of the extraordin­ary conser­vat­ive back­lash that, at one point, led to the shut­down of the federal govern­ment.  Not only was the federal govern­ment’s fund­ing of LSC cut by one-third, but also an oner­ous set of restric­tions was imposed on the inde­pend­ent non-profit organ­iz­a­tions that receive LSC fund­ing.  The fund­ing cuts, and the fund­ing restric­tions, had devast­at­ing effects.  They left LSC seri­ously under­fun­ded and sharply circum­scribed.