April 3, 2017
Contact: Kate Coscarelli
Senior Managing Director Communications
NEW BRUNSWICK - The New Jersey State Bar Association is asking all of the state's representatives in Washington to step up to support funding to provide legal help to poor residents.
The association added its voice to the chorus of those from around the legal profession asking that funding be restored for Legal Services Corporation, which provides assistance to programs around the country, including Legal Services of New Jersey, to represent the nation's indigent with civil legal matters.
"The NJSBA urges that Congress continue to provide robust funding for LSC and urges you, and your colleagues from New Jersey, to speak out against funding cuts that will deepen the yawning justice gap among the state’s neediest families. I thank you for your time and attention to this very important matter," said NJSBA President Thomas H. Prol in letters sent to the entire New Jersey delegation at the Capitol.
Read the full letter here:
The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) is gravely concerned about the Administration’s call for elimination of funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in its FY2018 budget blueprint. On behalf of the 18,200 lawyers, judges, law students and other legal professionals who make up this great organization, we urge you to take action to ensure LSC receives sufficient funding to help serve the millions of people around the country who rely on its services.
LSC provides vital civil legal aid to 1.9 million Americans each year, primarily through grants to 133 civil legal aid programs with nearly 900 offices nationwide. In New Jersey, current LSC funding allows Legal Services of New Jersey to provide aid to an additional 20,000 New Jersey clients in 6,700 new matters each year.
When Congress formed LSC in 1974 (in a bi-partisan vote during the Nixon Administration), it found that "there is a need to provide high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel;" and that "providing legal assistance to those who face an economic barrier to adequate legal counsel will serve best the ends of justice and assist in improving opportunities for low-income persons."
That remains true today.
LSC provides free legal aid in civil legal matters to the poorest, most vulnerable residents since there is no constitutional right to counsel in civil legal matters. LSC keeps families together and out of homelessness by fighting illegal evictions; helps keep senior couples in their modest homes in the face of imminent foreclosures based on predatory lending practices; protects victims of domestic violence; and makes sure those entitled to assistance from government programs designed to assist the state’s most vulnerable people actually receive the help they need.
LSC represents an important service to your constituents, as there is at least one Legal Services office in every county in New Jersey. In total, more than 120,000 new clients sought and received help from Legal Services of New Jersey in 2016. Just this week, the NJSBA co-hosted an event in Union City where over 150 residents came out to seek help from over two dozen volunteer attorneys. There is clearly a need, but without sufficient funding to supplement these volunteers who commit pro bono hours to help the community, many of those people will be turned away.
Our federal government was founded on the concept of justice for all. Funding the services provided by the LSC is part of the government’s commitment to that concept. It should not be transferred as an unfunded mandate to state and local governments, which are struggling to balance their own budgets. In fact, Legal Services of New Jersey is currently facing a $5 million state funding cut from Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget.
The NJSBA urges that Congress continue to provide robust funding for LSC and urges you, and your colleagues from New Jersey, to speak out against funding cuts that will deepen the yawning justice gap among the state’s neediest families. I thank you for your time and attention to this very important matter.
Thomas H. Prol