What Will Happen to Americans Who Can’t Afford an Attorney?

President Trump’s budget would eliminate the Legal Services Corporation, which helps low-income individuals obtain representation in civil proceedings.

Feature (NATIONAL)

Matt Ford
Atlantic, The
March 19, 2017

Tags: Funding: Federal, Justice for All

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Services Corporation (LSC), Voices for Civil Justice, Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, Nevada Legal Services, Ohio State Legal Services



In many ways, legal-aid organizations fill the same role in civil proceedings that public defenders perform in the criminal-justice system: providing legal representation for those unable to afford it themselves. The Sixth Amendment requires the existence of public-defender systems, which often have their own budgetary woes, but civil legal-aid programs have no such constitutional mandate. Instead, they rely on support from both parties and funding from federal and state governments, private foundations, and other nonprofit groups to exist.

“Most Americans don’t really have an idea of what civil legal aid is, but the Legal Services Corporation is absolutely the backbone of our nation’s commitment to justice for all,” Bergmark said. “It’s just a devastating prospect to think that after such a long history of bipartisan support and commitment, that we would be at this stage.”