Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funding

Messaging suggestions and talking points.

LSC logo with text

The LSC is the nation’s largest single funder of civil legal aid for low-income people.

Each year, the President submits a budget request to Congress. Under the federal budget process, Congress is supposed to approve the 2025 appropriations spending bills by September 30, 2024, and so on. But in recent years, annual spending levels have not been decided until well into the current fiscal year.

Fiscal Year 2018: President’s proposal to eliminate LSC funding rejected by Congress, again

For fiscal year 2019, the President proposed to eliminate funding for the LSC but Congress restored it. American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass issued a statement saying the administration’s latest proposal to defund the LSC “is unwarranted and should be dead on arrival”.

Fiscal Year 2018: Strong bipartisan support defeats president’s proposal to eliminate LSC funding

For fiscal year 2018, the President proposed to eliminate funding for the LSC, but Congress restored it, thanks to a major nationwide campaign and bipartisan support in Congress.

LSC President Jim Sandman said he expected Congress to ignore the President’s proposal and grant the full $502 million funding request. “We represent a fundamental American value—equal justice,” Sandman told Bloomberg. “That’s a value as old as the republic itself. Congress understands that.”

Final action: In continuing budget resolutions, Congress kept the FY2018 LSC budget at the FY2017 level of $385 million, and added $15 million to fund legal services for victims of natural disasters.


3/29/17 Letter from 148 Members of Congress to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, House Committee on Appropriations, requesting continued funding in FY2018
“LSC helps military families, homeowners and renters, families with children, farmers, the disabled, the elderly and many others across the country, including nearly 112,000 veterans and their families. Over 60 million Americans, or 21% of the U.S. population, currently qualify for legal assistance from LSC-funded programs.”

5/18/17 Letter from 42 Senators to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Senate Committee on Appropriations, requesting “robust” FY2018 funding for the Legal Services Corporation
“The elimination of LSC would mean that hundreds of thousands of veterans, elderly victims of foreclosure, and women and children desperate to esp. domestic violence will be denied assistance.  Low-income American receive aid with consumer, housing, and employment issues from LSC recipients. Funding for legal services provides assistance to low-income Americans on matters involving securing housing for veterans and families, freeing seniors from financial abuse, serving rural areas when others won’t, protecting battered women, and helping disaster survivors.”


2/24/17 Letter from the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA), to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, urging stable and adequate funding of the Legal Services Corporation
“Without a doubt, the elimination or reduction of the LSC’s appropriation would have tragic consequences…. Our research makes clear that the large number of unrepresented citizens overwhelming the nation’s courts has negative consequences not only for them but also for the effectiveness and efficiency of courts…. [C]ourt procedures are slowed, backlogs of other court cases occur, and judges confront the challenge of maintaining their impartiality while preventing injustice.”

5/23/17 Letter from 32 state and territory Attorneys General urging Congress to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation
“LSC funding helps veterans and military families secure important benefits, it supports survivors of domestic violence seeking safety, and it assists families facing foreclosure and victims of natural disasters. LSC funding also fosters longstanding and useful public-private partnerships between legal aid organizations and private firms and attorneys nationwide who donate their time and skills to assist low-income residents in our states.”

Legal & business sector

3/9/17 Letter  from leaders of more than 150 U.S. law firms, in all 50 states, to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, urging continued funding of the Legal Services Corporation
“We know the value of LSC first-hand. Through our lawyers, our firms provide millions of hours of free legal services to individuals in desperate need…. [O]ur ability to provide pro bono legal services is directly dependent on partnership with legal aid organizations, which screen cases for merit and eligibility, and train and mentor our attorneys…. Moreover, LSC-funded civil legal aid is essential to individuals living in rural areas….”

3/28/17 Letter from general counsel from 185 companies to Congress in support of the Legal Services Corporation
“As lawyers and business leaders, we understand how LSC’s national framework provides the basic structure that supports the provision of civil legal services. It also supports the countless hours of pro bono representation provided by corporate legal departments and in-house attorneys. Without the structure and dedicated resources of LSC, many of these volunteer hours would not be possible…. “

5/12/17 Statement of American Bar Association President Linda Klein to Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, Committee on Appropriations
“Elimination of federal funding for equal justice would necessarily foist unfunded mandates on states, tribes, and localities…. Funding for equal justice under federal law cannot be shouldered by state and local governments as an unfunded mandate. The federal government should contribute its fair share.

“Legal Aid offices in every corner of the country regularly assist constituents referred by congressional offices and their district staff. Civil legal aid is a constituent service performed in every state and congressional district in the country, complementary to and often at the request of your own constituent services.”

4/27/17 Testimony of American Bar Association President Linda Klein to House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, Committee on Appropriations
“[T]he goal is not equality of outcome, but rather equality before the law. In the Pledge of Allegiance, we pledge allegiance to our republic with “justice for all.” In the Declaration of Independence, we declare that “to secure these rights,” governments are instituted among men. Legal aid clients secure their rights through federal, state, and local law — not exclusively state and local law. Funding for equal justice under federal law is a federal duty. The federal funding to promote equal civil justice is the funding for the Legal Services Corporation.”

3/16/17 Statement of American Bar Association President Linda Klein on Trump Administration proposal to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation
“Some of the worthy services the LSC provides include securing housing for veterans, protecting seniors from scams, delivering legal services to rural areas, protecting victims of domestic abuse and helping disaster survivors. Their offices are in every congressional district and they help almost 1.9 million people annually.”

“LSC has had bipartisan support in Congress since its inception in 1974 because it embodies the principles that for two centuries have defined us as Americans – fairness and equal access to justice.”

Law schools

3/23/17 Letter from 166 law school deans to Chairs of the U.S. House and Senate Committees on Appropriations and the Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, Science, & Related Agencies, urging continued funding for LSC
“As law school deans, we see the impact of LSC funds, not just in direct service by legal aid organizations, but through the partnerships that the funds facilitate. Many of our schools operate clinics and externships that collaborate with organizations that rely on LSC funds. The funds have a positive ripple effect across our communities and into future generations of attorneys, as our students work alongside experienced attorneys dedicated to serving the less fortunate.”

3/10/17 Letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney from Deans of Catholic law schools, opposing elimination of the Legal Services Corporation
“Included among the activities that the LSC may not fund are lobbying, criminal cases, habeas corpus actions, labor organizing activities, abortion-related litigation, the representation of non-citizens (subject to limited exceptions), class actions, prisoner litigation, welfare reform, and redistricting…. LSC’s remaining statutory charge lies largely beyond partisan reproach.”

“As the late Justice Antonin Scalia stated in his remarks celebrating the organization’s 40th anniversary, the LSC ‘pursues the most fundamental of American ideals,’ for ‘without access to quality representation there is no justice.'”