CLASP works to ensure that low-income and marginalized communities have broader access to civil legal assistance by promoting policies that strengthen the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and improve the quality of civil legal aid programs.
Civil Legal Aid in Jeopardy
For years, low-income people have struggled with a huge gap between their legal needs and the capacity of the civil legal assistance system to meet those needs.
Last year, Congress reduced funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) from $402 million in 2011 to $348 million in 2012. In response, LSC-funded programs reduced attorneys by 12.5 percent, paralegals by 17.4 percent and administrative staff by 12.7 percent. Programs closed 29 offices in 2012, many of them in rural areas where it can be particularly difficult for individuals to find alternative assistance. As a result, the LSC-funded civil legal aid program served 81,000 fewer low-income Americans.
As reported in February, the President's 2013 budget proposed to restore LSC funding to the 2011 level. But because Congress hasn't passed a full FY2013 budget, the Continuing Resolution finalized last week will fund LSC at $350 million. This doesn't mean that LSC is safe from further cuts, though. According to the Report of OMB on Sequestration, LSC will lose another $29 million in January if Sequestration goes into effect.
The automatic, across-the-board cuts set to begin on January 2, 2013, by the sequester were intended to be a blunt and indiscriminate instrument that would inspire both parties to negotiate a compromise on a deficit reduction plan. Another $29 million in cuts to LSC would be very damaging. We hope the stark reality of sequestration, which has been widely understood as a negotiating tool and not a plan to be implemented, will have the effect of driving both political parties to compromise on a balanced approach to deficit reduction so the country can avoid the serious consequences of these cuts.
Both the funding level provided in the Continuing Resolution and the lower level required if Sequestration goes into effect are totally inadequate. Civil legal aid programs will turn away at least as many clients as they served in 2012 and will turn away even more in 2013. To keep civil legal aid a viable program that can adequately serve people in need, the program should obtain funding of at least $800 million, the level it would have been in 1980 dollars (when the program reached its high water mark in funding).
- Alan W. Houseman | Jul 01, 2009 Civil Legal Assistance in the United States: An Update for 2009
- Alan Houseman & the CLASP Staff | Oct 16, 2008 CLASP Federal Policy Recommendations for 2009 and Beyond
- Alan Houseman & Linda Perle | Jan 01, 2007 Securing Equal Justice for All: A Brief History of Civil Legal Assistance in the U.S.
- Alan Houseman & Linda Perle | Sep 01, 2003 Civil Legal Aid: An Overview of the Program and Developments
- Alan W. Houseman and Linda E. Perle | Dec 03, 2013 Securing Equal Justice for All: A Brief History of Civil Legal Assistance in the United States
- Alan W. Houseman | Nov 26, 2013 Civil Legal Aid in the United States: An Update for 2013
- Feb 13, 2012 President Proposes to Restore Civil Legal Aid Funding, But More Is Needed
- CLASP | Jan 25, 2010 Federal Policy Recommendations for 2010
- CLASP | Sep 01, 2009 Federal Policy Recommendations for 2009 and Beyond