Civil legal aid organizations touch every community and nearly every media beat. If you are covering issues related to civil justice, contact us. We can offer relevant story ideas and connect you with credible organizations and spokespeople.
Recent Trends and Themes
Following is a list of a few trends and themes that have received media coverage recently.
Harvey, Irma, and natural disasters — Civil legal aid plays a crucial role in recovery from disasters. Survivors need food, water, and shelter. But then they need a lawyer. There are numerous legal crises after a natural disaster: Insurance scammers, clearing title, dealing with bureaucracy, and problems with landlords.
Soaring evictions — As Pulitzer price winning author Matthew Desmond writes: Evictions have become an epidemic in America. This problem is largely driven by the failures in rent court and the imbalance between landlords with lawyers and renters on their own. A growing movement is emerging across the country. They offer solutions such as court navigators and more access to civil legal aid in general. Recently, New York City became the first city in America to guarantee a right to a lawyer in eviction cases. Cities across the country are getting on board too.
Funding for civil legal aid in America — The Trump administration’s first budget blueprint would eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation. This would devastate American families. Small legal problems can mushroom into a crisis. For example, without the Legal Services Corporation, a $15 tax bill could cost a family from Oklahoma their home. That is why public support for the program has poured out, including from a former U.S. attorney general, top Republicans in Congress, general counsels from the nation’s biggest companies, and many more.
Lawyers as solutions in health care and education — Practitioners from different fields increasingly realize that legal issues are a social determinant of health and educational outcomes. Medical-legal partnerships have spread across the country. School-based legal aid is on the rise as students’ stress level and suspension rates can be traced to legal problems such a housing instability or an unsafe family situation. And since 2015, when the White House established the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, federal agencies have collaborated to implement legal aid as a solution to government inefficiencies and challenges like veterans homelessness and elder abuse.
Civil justice and court reform — Limited funding for civil legal aid and the courts mean that millions poor and moderate-income people (and middle class people) go to court alone. This creates challenges for courts and litigants alike and exacerbates a system where rulings are not based on the merits of a case but rather whether you have a lawyer or know how to assert your rights.
Explosion of innovation in civil legal aid — While traditional civil legal aid continues, organizations and courts around the country are trying many innovative approaches. From online programs on bankruptcy to help with immigration, divorce through remote access in court, and court navigators.
Rural access — New data from sources like the Justice Index from the National Center for Access to Justice at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law show how the difficulty in getting legal help is particularly prevalent in rural areas. In some counties a lawyer isn’t even available.