civil legal aid

  • October 28, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    Rebecca Vallas and Billy Corriher write in The Nation that efforts to reform America’s criminal justice system are “doomed to fail” if policymakers do not also invest in civil legal aid to support formerly incarcerated individuals after their release.

    In The Atlantic, Sherrilyn A. Iffill asserts that continued battles over voter suppression and police brutality offer a “sobering challenge to claims that the project of the Second Founding has been completed.”

    In The Huffington Post, ACS President Caroline Fredrickson explains why Rep. Paul Ryan’s request for guaranteed time with his family should be used as a springboard for developing better family-work policies.

    In The New York Times, Robert Maguire warns that a new breed of politically active nonprofits is pushing the limits with regard to election spending rules, thereby increasing the tide of dark money in political campaigns.

    Deborah Kalb discusses Under the Bus with Caroline Fredrickson on Kalb’s personal blog.

  • August 22, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    In a class society burdened by festering economic inequality and too many lawmakers bent on cutting funding for civil legal aid, the struggle for an accessible justice system can appear insurmountable.

    But some new research emerging from Voices for Civil Justice and the Public Welfare Foundation, indicates that a growing number in the legal profession do care about a justice system that is inclusive -- not one that caters solely to the well-off.

    The groups commissioned polling work by Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group, and among the information they are making public now shows that a “strong majority of lawyers – 59 percent – indicate a previous or current involvement with civil legal aid as donors or volunteers.”

    The research, which will be released in its entirety in September, also reveals that 65 percent of lawyers “express initial support for increasing government funding for civil legal aid.”

    Beyond the debilitating effects of the Great Recession, a rapidly growing number of unaccompanied children arriving, many along the U.S.-Mexico border, are facing deportation with no legal representation – or very little. As Voices for Civil Justice and Public Welfare Foundation note there are groups within the legal community that see the injustice of the situation and are striving to do something about it.

    Reporting on the uptick of unaccompanied migrants, Rick Jervis of USA Today notes that the Obama administration is urging Congress to authorize “$3.7 billion in emergency funding, which includes $45 million for new judges plus funding for legal aid for children ….” Jervis continues, however, that conservative lawmakers “have balked at the proposal. They want to make it easier to send the youths back.”

    But Jonathan Ryan, head of the Texas-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, highlights the injustice of denying legal aid to unaccompanied children.

  • September 25, 2012
    Guest Post

    By Alan W. Houseman, Executive Director, CLASP (the Center for Law and Social Policy)


    Civil legal aid helps low-income people navigate various civil matters like housing evictions, home foreclosures, predatory lending, child support, and domestic violence. It also helps people access government benefits like Social Security, disability, unemployment insurance, food stamps, TANF and health insurance. Without the services of a lawyer, low-income people with civil-legal problems may have no practical way of protecting their rights and advancing their interests.

    Civil legal aid in the United States is provided by approximately 500 independent, staff-based service providers, including 135 programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  These programs are non-profit entities that deliver civil legal aid by full-time attorneys and paralegals who provide advice, brief service, court and hearing representation, community legal education, economic and community development, and policy advocacy. 

    These core providers are supplemented by approximately 900 pro bono programs affiliated with state and local bar associations, over 200 law school clinical programs and several hundred self-help programs. 

    Total funding for civil legal aid is approximately $1,375,000,000. Funding comes from a variety of sources. The largest single funder is LSC. However, state sources provide the largest amount of overall funding. These include increases in filing fees, general revenue appropriations and Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA). (IOLTA programs distribute the pooled interest of client trust funds to civil legal aid programs and other access-to-justice initiatives. Client trust funds contain short-term deposits of clients held by lawyers in interest-bearing accounts, which are used to pay court fees, settlement payments, and similar client needs.)