For more than three decades, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has touched the lives of millions of low-income Americans, addressing the civil legal needs of the elderly, victims of domestic violence, veterans seeking benefits to which they are entitled, disabled individuals, tenants facing unlawful evictions, and other poor Americans.
In founding LSC, Congress entrusted the Corporation with a dual mission: to provide equal access to justice and to ensure the delivery of high-quality civil legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford counsel.
Today, LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal services, and is at the forefront of a public-private partnership focused on fulfilling America’s promise of equal justice for all regardless of income.
That promise grew out of America’s founding. The Constitution calls for establishing justice as a national purpose in its very first line. The Pledge of Allegiance proclaims the country’s commitment to “justice for all.” At the U.S. Supreme Court building, “Equal Justice Under Law” is engraved over the entrance.
Equal justice under law, Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., said, “is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists….it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability, without regard to economic status.”
With the support of the public and the Congress, LSC has become the bedrock on which the national system of access to civil justice now stands. The system is supported by federal, state and local appropriations, Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) funds, court filing-fee surcharges, foundation support, and private contributions.
The access to justice umbrella brings together the judiciary, bar associations, legal aid providers, law schools, private attorneys, business and civic organizations, and other parties to address the civil legal needs of low-income individuals. Many states have established Access to Justice Commissions, and many other states have similar entities to achieve access to justice goals. These access to justice initiatives foster partnerships and collaborations among key segments of the legal profession.
As James Madison wrote in 1788, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”