Today, the President released his budget framework, including a proposal to eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, the largest single national funding source for free civil legal assistance to low income Americans. The Wisconsin Access to Justice Commission strongly urges Congress to continue its longstanding bipartisan support of LSC and reject this budget proposal. Eliminating LSC would undercut America’s promise of equal justice for all and harm our state justice system.
In Wisconsin, LSC provided $5.2 million in 2016 to two organizations, Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare, allowing them to provide free legal information, advice, and representation on civil matters to over 9,000 low income Wisconsin residents in cities, towns, and villages across Wisconsin. Together, these two organizations help people who have basic civil legal problems with their housing, children, safety, health care, and incomes.
Access to civil legal aid ensures fairness for all in the justice system, without regard to how much money you have. LSC funding in Wisconsin helps remove barriers to employment, obtain child support orders, prevent homelessness, and protect abuse victims. Hundreds of Wisconsin attorneys donate over $1 million of their time each year by volunteering through Legal Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Judicare. However, these organizations depend on LSC funding to provide volunteer training and support. Without the critical legal help that LSC funds, more people will be forced to go it alone in our legal system, leading to higher costs, clogged dockets, and further injustice.
A number of state national organizations have also issued statements and written letters supporting LSC, including the:
- State Bar of Wisconsin
- Legal Services Corporation
- American Bar Association
- National Legal Aid & Defender Association
- Conference of Chief Justices/Conference of State Court Administrators
- Managing partners of more than 150 of the largest law firms in the U.S.
- General counsel from 185 companies
What can you do?
There are two things you can do. First, the American Bar Association is launching a grassroots campaign to engage constituents around the country to fight to save LSC. Here is how it works:
- Supporters should be directed to DefendLegalAid.org to register as Legal Aid Defenders.
- Participants will be asked to create a short message for their Members of Congress and submit their contact information to create a Legal Aid Defender card (like the sample here). The cards can be personalized by submitting a photo.
- The ABA will print and hand-deliver every card to each participant’s Members of Congress (Three cards for each participant – House Member and two Senators).
- The cards will be delivered by state delegations during ABA Day in Washington (April 25-27).
You can help to get the word out and generate as many of these Legal Aid Defender cards as possible from supporters in all walks of life around the state. Please consider sharing this campaign with your friends and other organizations in any way that you think is appropriate.
Second, you can also call or visit your members of Congress, especially when they are in their home district. Congress will be in recess April 10-23, 2017, so that is an ideal time for you to make personal contact. There are tools to help you make those contacts. The ABA provides a basic background information sheet (pdf) that you can use to prepare for legislative visits. Wisconsin-specific resources are also available. Just contact us.