LSC: 40 Years of Championing Equal Access to Justice
Washington, DC – The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the country, marks its 40th anniversary on July 25.
LSC will commemorate this milestone beginning with a three-day event bringing together a wide range of legal, government, corporate, and philanthropic leaders to shine a light on the challenges and opportunities facing civil legal aid in America. The 40th Anniversary Kick-Off will be held Sept. 14-16 at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington, DC.
“Created in 1974 as one of the last acts of the Nixon administration, LSC’s mission is ‘to provide equal access to the system of justice in our nation’ and ‘to provide high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel,’” said LSC Board Chairman John G. Levi. “We are grateful for four decades of bipartisan congressional support in pursuit of this mission. With the number of people now eligible for civil legal assistance at an all-time high—nearly 21% of Americans—we look forward to working with Congress to further expand its funding to help meet this unprecedented need.”
LSC provides federal funds through competitive grants to 134 independent nonprofit organizations with nearly 800 offices in every state, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. LSC is headed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Board is bipartisan: no more than six members may be of the same political party.
LSC promotes technology innovation through its Technology Initiative Grants program which has funded more than 525 technology projects in the past decade. LSC also awards grants through its Pro Bono Innovation Fund to support new and innovative projects to promote and enhance pro bono efforts throughout the country.
“Every day across America, victims of domestic violence seeking protection, veterans trying to avoid homelessness, and consumers facing wrongful evictions or foreclosures are forced to navigate the legal system alone because they can’t afford a lawyer,” LSC President James J. Sandman said. “LSC’s funding of high-quality legal services for low-income people helps assure fairness in our legal system, and it’s never been more needed, or more important, than it is today.”
Members of Congress applauded LSC on its 40th anniversary:
Representative Frank Wolf (VA-10th), Chairman, House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Sub-Committee: “As chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee from 2001-2006 and again since 2011, I have worked closely with the LSC leadership to support these programs and ensure that funding is spent efficiently and appropriately. I have also worked with my colleagues in Congress and LSC leadership to mitigate partisan issues that undermine support for this program. Through these efforts, we have been able to ensure that LSC funding is focused on supporting legitimate civil legal aid needs by those Americans who need it most.
Over the past several years, I have encouraged LSC to do more to engage law firms and bar associations to expand pro bono services in coordination with the corporation. In response, the LSC board created a Pro Bono Task Force in 2011 and produced a comprehensive report with innovative ideas to bolster national pro bono efforts. I want to credit LSC Board Chairman John Levi and LSC President Jim Sandman for their leadership on this project, which has the potential to further extend LSC’s support for low-income Americans.
Forty years after its creation, the LSC fills a critical gap by providing low-income Americans with legal assistance they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I want to commend the Legal Services Corporation and the attorneys working in our communities for the work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel.”
Representative Chaka Fattah (PA-2nd) Ranking Member, House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Sub-Committee -- “For millions of low-income Americans—including veterans, working families, and people with disabilities—Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the only path to navigating the justice system and securing high-quality legal representation. As Ranking Member on the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, I have led the effort in Congress to secure adequate funding to support LSC’s mission of ensuring that every individual who requires it has access to America’s courts. As demand continues to grow for civil legal aid in our country, it will remain our responsibility to continue to fight for increased funding. I applaud LSC’s four decades of success advocating for equal access to justice and look forward to remaining its champion.”
Representative Steve Cohen (TN-9th) -- “On this anniversary, I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel. Every day that a legal aid attorney protects the safety, security and health of our most vulnerable citizens, they bring this nation closer to living up to its commitment to equal justice for all.”
Representative Tom Cole (OK-4th) -- “Friday, July 25, marks the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). LSC-funded legal aid programs make a crucial difference to millions of Americans by assisting with the most basic civil legal needs. On this anniversary, I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel.”
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13th) -- “On this 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, we should recommit ourselves to the founding principle and continue to ensure that LSC can fulfill its critical mission through sufficient funding. I commend LSC and its grantee programs for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel and for continuing its mission of equal justice for all.”
Representative Mike Honda (CA-17th) -- “I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel. In my role as a senior member of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, I’ve fought to increase LSC funding, and have sought to remove federal restrictions on how LSC can use state, local, and private funds to more efficiently use the resources it has available to serve low-income clients. I will continue to work to provide LSC with the resources and flexibility it needs to ensure equal access to justice.”
Representative Mike Quigley (IL-5th) -- “I rise today to honor the Legal Services Corporation, which for 40 years has played a vital role in ensuring all Americans, regardless of income, have proper representation in court. Thank you to the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel.”
Representative Adam Schiff (CA-28th) -- “On this anniversary, I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel, as well as the thousands of attorneys who contribute pro bono services to clients in need. In my district, LSC provides funding to Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, an organization which provided legal aid to over 4,600 clients last year and looks to increase that number this year.”
Representative Bobby Scott (VA-3rd) -- “I have long been a supporter of legal assistance for low-income Americans and of the LSC dating back to the 1970s, when I led the effort to establish the LSC-funded Virginia Peninsula Legal Aid Center, Inc. So I know from first-hand experience that LSC-funded legal aid programs make a critical difference to low-income Americans by assisting with their most basic civil legal needs. On this 40th anniversary, I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of millions of Americans who need qualified, competent legal counsel.”
Representative Chris Van Hollen (MD-8th) -- “I rise today to honor the achievements of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) on its 40th anniversary. While we reflect on the achievements of LSC over the last 40 years, Congress must also renew its commitment to providing LSC the critical resources it needs to assist our must vulnerable.”
Representative Johnson (GA-4th) -- “In the aftermath of the Great Recession and as income inequality continues to plague our society, there’s never been a greater need for the critical work of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Whether it’s preventing scams against our senior citizens, helping homeowners prevent foreclosures, supporting our veterans and military families or fighting for workers' rights, LSC has been on the frontlines of providing civil legal aid for low-income Americans for the past 40 years.”
Representative José Serrano (NY-15th) -- “justice should not be limited only to those who can afford it. Equal access to our justice system is at the essence of our democracy. Our court system should allow everyone who has a legitimate grievance to pursue justice with the best possible representation. For the past 40 years, LSC and all of its grantees have helped ensure that our nation lives up to these ideals.”
Representative Nita Lowey (NY-17th) Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee -- “every American, regardless of wealth, deserves quality representation before the courts. The work that LSC does to ensure that those most in need receive legal counsel and due process before the courts is invaluable. I am proud to recognize the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who desperately need their counsel."
Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1st) -- “I was proud to work at legal aid early in my career and I’ll never forget the people I was able to help. They desperately needed an attorney when they could little afford one. I want to emphasize that they were not low income by choice—most had unexpected medical bills, had lost a job, or lost a spouse. I congratulate LSC on its 40th anniversary, and commend all the hard working legal aid attorneys and staff who get so little recognition for such important work."
Senator Tom Harkin (IA) -- “I know firsthand the important work of the Legal Services Corporation. Before I was elected to Congress, I worked as a legal aid attorney in Polk County, IA. I experienced the challenges—and also the rewards—of representing people who otherwise would not have the legal assistance they deserve. And I developed a deep appreciation for the role that legal aid attorneys play within our system of justice. On this anniversary, I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel.”
Senator Angus King (ME) -- “I salute the Legal Services Corporation and LSC-funded attorneys for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel. I began my career as one of these attorneys - beginning in 1969, I worked in Skowhegan, Maine for a legal services provider called Pine Tree Legal Assistance. Although my time predated LSC, today Pine Tree is funded by LSC and continues to provide high-quality legal services to those in most need. I learned first-hand during this period that the work of LSC attorneys is a critical element of making real the promise of our country to our disadvantaged and disenfranchised citizens.”
Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) -- “On this 40th anniversary, I congratulate and commend the Legal Services Corporation for the vital work they do every day on behalf of Americans who need qualified counsel. In my home state, more than 25% of the population is eligible for LSC-funded legal services. The three programs funded by LSC served nearly 40,000 Louisianians and closed nearly 16,000 cases last year. Every day that a legal aid attorney protects the safety, security, and health of our most vulnerable citizens, they bring this nation closer to living up to its commitment to equal justice for all.”
Senator Patty Murray (WA) -- “I applaud the efforts of LSC, the programs and services funded by the corporation, and ask that we commit ourselves to ensuring that Americans of all backgrounds have access to adequate legal services. We are a better nation for its 40 years of service and advocacy on their behalf. In my home state of Washington, LSC-backed programs have been helping survivors of the Oso mudslide get back up on their feet and rebuild their lives. LSC is essential to protecting the lives and liberty of the most vulnerable Americans.”
Senator Benjamin Cardin (MD) -- “I commend the LSC, MLSC, and the many LSC-funded attorneys and private sector lawyers who have donated pro bono hours who strive to live up to the commitment of our legal system to provide equal justice under law. Congress needs to live up to the same commitment that we require our federal judges to make before sitting on the bench and deciding cases. Let us make sure that millions of Americans who need access to legal assistance are provided that critical help in cases that will have a profound impact on their lives, their family, and their community.”
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) was established by the Congress in 1974 to provide equal access to justice and to ensure the delivery of high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 134 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S.territories.