April 27, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC -- John G. Levi, Chairman of the Legal Services Corporation's Board of Directors, testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee today in support of an authorized annual funding level of $750 million "because it will significantly strengthen our ability to provide legal aid to the poor."
Chairman Levi appeared before the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, which held a hearing on the Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009. The legislation would reauthorize the Corporation's activities, lift certain funding restrictions, and authorize $750 million in annual funding for a five-year period.
The chief sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-Va.), and the chief sponsor of the Senate bill, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), said the legislation would help ensure resources are available to legal services programs at a time when demand for legal assistance is soaring. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) chaired the hearing, which was attended by Ranking Member Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Melvin L. Watt (D-N.C.), Rep. Henry Johnson (D-Ga.), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).
In his testimony, Chairman Levi said, "Higher annual funding for LSC will help expand the capacity of local legal services programs to meet the needs of their communities. Those needs are on the rise, especially given the risks that the economic downturn raises to jobs and homes, the jeopardy of physical violence and family conflicts, and the special needs of veterans."
He added, "With 54 million Americans -- one-sixth of our population -- qualifying for legal assistance, the magnitude of this issue cannot be overstated."
Chairman Levi was elected to head the Board on April 7. Asked by Subcommittee Chairman Cohen to list his priorities, Levi said they included a nationwide search for a new president to lead the Corporation, increased public and private funding for legal services, improved oversight and accountability, and the development of a new, five-year strategic plan for the Corporation.
Other witnesses were Jeffrey E. Schanz, the Corporation's Inspector General; Rebekah Diller, deputy director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, and Kenneth F. Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center.