ABA President Hilarie Bass testifies to need for greater legal aid funding

American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass filed written testimony with the House of Representatives supporting increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation to close America’s “justice gap.”

LSC supports more than 800 legal aid offices across the country, serving every congressional district. Its current federal funding is $410 million. The ABA is asking Congress to restore funding to 2010 levels, which would be $482 million, after adjusting for inflation.

In her testimony, Bass cited the great unmet need for legal aid services nationwide. A 2017 analysis by the University of Chicago found that 86 percent of all civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans receive no legal help or inadequate legal help.

“The ABA has long been committed to the realization of Equal Justice Under Law in our country,” Bass wrote. LSC-funded legal aid offices try to fulfill the promise of equal justice by helping Americans who cannot afford to hire their own lawyers, including many older Americans, rural Americans, domestic violence survivors and natural-disaster victims, Bass wrote.

The Legal Services Corporation was created in 1974 under President Richard Nixon. The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia praised the Legal Services Corporation at its 40th anniversary in 2014, saying legal aid is crucial to maintaining the concept of equal justice. “This organization pursues the most fundamental of American ideals, and it pursues equal justice in those areas of life most important to the lives of our citizens,” Scalia said.

Full Text of Bass’ written testimony, submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

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