The Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Subcommittees have voted this month to cut Legal Services funding. The operations of legal aid providers across the nation will be decimated by the cuts. Funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the organization that supports Colorado Legal Services, would be cut by 26 percent in Fiscal Year 2012 under a proposal announced by the House Appropriations Committee on July 6, 2011.
The Committee bill proposes a $300 million budget for LSC—rolling back LSC funding to a level not seen since 1999. Basic field grants, which are currently provided to 136 nonprofit civil legal aid programs across the nation, would be cut to $274.4 million, a 27.5 percent reduction from current funding of $378.6 million.
Over the past few months, parts of our country have been devastated by tornadoes, wildfires and floods. And across the country, the tough economy is flooding legal aid offices folks looking for help. From 2009 to 2010, foreclosure cases were up 20 percent at LSC-funded programs; unemployment compensation cases increased 10.5 percent; landlord-tenant disputes rose by 7.7 percent; bankruptcy, debt relief and consumer finance cases were up by nearly 5 percent, and domestic violence cases increased by 5 percent.
The president of the American Bar Association, the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world, has called on members to protest the cuts. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, which requires the courthouse doors be open to all in need of justice. But all Americans should support our system of justice – contact your elected representatives and encourage full funding for our legal aid services.