Legal aid seeks justice for all

In 75 percent of civil legal cases in this country, people do not have access to legal help. These most vulnerable individuals are cancer patients, foster children, domestic-violence victims, veterans, disabled persons and families who have fallen on difficult times.
Op-Ed (Florida)

Linda Harradine
Sarasota Herald Tribune
October 24, 2016

Tags: Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid of Manasota (FL)


The benefits of proper legal counsel extend to the entire community. Take the example of eviction. Once a person has an eviction on his or her record, it is nearly impossible to find future housing, creating a cycle of housing instability. When we fight to prevent a family from being evicted, we keep people in their homes and in their jobs and keep children in school. It is much less expensive to preserve housing through eviction prevention than to find emergency housing for a homeless family.

A Florida TaxWatch report found that $4.78 in economic impact was generated for every $1 spent on legal aid. That is an impressive return on investment. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence of the social and economic benefits of providing civil legal assistance to low-income individuals, funding continues to decline.

One of the primary funding sources for Florida’s legal aid system is interest on trust accounts held by law firms. Low interest rates have resulted in an 80 percent reduction since 2008 and available funding has dropped from $36 million per year, to less than $7 million. This funding shortfall means millions of people are left to fight their legal battles alone in a system stacked against them, oftentimes with devastating results.