Friday, February 27, 2009

House Approves Increase for Legal Services

Don't ever tell me there's not a "dime's worth of difference". That's never been true, even in the worst of times. The Obama adminstration introduced, and the House has approved increased funding for Legal Service Corporation, which represents low income people in non-criminal legal cases.
The 11 percent increase would bring funding for the Corporation to a total of $390 million,the third consecutive year (emphasis mine) that the House has supported additional funding to provide civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. Most of the funding, $365.8 million, would be awarded as competitive grants to 137 nonprofit legal aid programs across the nation.

Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees LSC, said the Corporation "is an important, significant program that provides legal assistance to people who are unable to afford it. We know that the poor are hit hard during economic downturns, and this funding will help more low-income Americans faced with unlawful evictions, domestic violence and other serious legal problems"

Legal Services Corporation programs are often - usually - the only legal representation available to low income people in non-criminal cases.  Other than that, it's just them against whatever system they're up against. Just figuring out how to navigate the courts or a hearing situation can be an impossible task without help, let alone actually going to court, if it should come to that. Demand almost always exceeds resources,  so most agencies have to limit their services to cases related to basic sustenance - food, shelter, income and safety - and even then they can't always help everyone who might be eligible for services.  Republican administrations have been at war with Legal Services since Reagan's time.  After all,  Legal Services represents poor people and poor people are not popular with the GOP. Democrats fund Legal Services. Note that this is the third consecutive year that the House has voted an increase in funding. What else is happening in the House  for the third consecutive year? Yes, that's right. Democratic majorities.  Let me tell you, by 2006 things were really bad for some Legal Service agencies and lack of funding was really hampering them in their ability to represent clients. This current economic climate has been a huge worry, too, because some of the funding for LSC comes from interest on escrow accounts that private lawyers hold for clients. Naturally enough,  these days there's considerably less being held in escrow.  Budget cuts from the states have also cut funding for legal help for the poor. This news is very welcome and is yet another reason to have warm, fuzzy feelings for the Dems.



  1. This is great news. And you're right on with "not a dime's worth of difference" remark. Even today, I'm not sure that I could resist slapping Ralph Nader or spitting at his feet if I met him. I wouldn't shake his hand, that's for sure.

  2. Oh, I'm so with you on that. Back in October of 2000 I said that if Nader made enough difference to cost Gore the election I would never, ever forgive him. Of course, he's not asking for forgiveness. He just doesn't assume any responsibility whatever. I've been as good as my word. I've never forgiven and as far as I'm concerned he has blood on his hands. He was old enough to know exactly what he was doing and that the consequences would mean life and death to some people. We just had no idea how many people that would be.

  3. Yes and he still keeps He doesn't care as long as he gets his name in the paper.

    This is good news. LSC has always been so underfunded and always has had trouble. It was such a worthy cause, yet could do so little their hands were tied so tightly.

  4. I guess in the name of full disclosure I should say I work for an LSC organization - in accounting - so I know how bad it gets. My sister has worked there as an attorney for much longer. She's been at this place for over 20 years and has worked in public interest/poverty law since graduating NYU Law a long time ago. There are other Reagan era impediments to representing low income people that, rumor has it, Tom Harkin is now going to try to reverse.