Law Day 2020: Message from John G. Levi, Chairman, LSC Board of Directors
This year’s 62nd annual observance of Law Day comes amid the unprecedented threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is not only a public health and economic crisis but a daunting legal one as well.
The 132 organizations supported by the Legal Service Corporation, the nation’s largest funder of civil legal aid, are confronting a sharp spike in demand as low-income Americans seek protective orders to respond to domestic violence, fight unlawful evictions and foreclosures, file unemployment insurance, struggle to access healthcare, and fend off the scammers.
LSC’s grantees must meet this challenge as their budgets are being threatened by funding cuts.
With interest rates near zero, an important source of funding for civil legal aid, interest on lawyers trusts accounts (IOLTA), will dry up. Court fees and state and local support are also likely to decline sharply.
While LSC is grateful for the $50 million for civil legal aid that we were appropriated in the recently enacted CARES Act, we know that much more will be needed, and that is why we are seeking another $50 million in legislation now under consideration.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, under-resourced civil legal aid providers, despite their best efforts, were coming nowhere near being able to meet the majority of their clients’ needs. Recent studies have found that LSC grantees are forced to turn away far too many eligible people because of a lack of resources and that 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help.
This growing justice gap could well become a threat to the rule of law in our country.
On this Law Day, I urge all Americans to join LSC and its grantees in following the call President Dwight Eisenhower made in his 1958 proclamation creating this annual observance to “vigilantly guard the great heritage of liberty, justice, and equality under law which our forefathers bequeathed to us.”
Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.