The PBEye was troubled by a proposal in mid-February in the U.S. House to severely cut the budget of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). We were then dismayed to learn of House approval of a $70 million cut on Feb. 19, which would be certain to hurt legal services throughout the country.
PBI’s President and CEO Esther F. Lardent wrote a column for the March edition of The National Law Journal, explaining how the cuts would have a cascading negative impact on access to justice. The 136 local legal services programs that receive grants from LSC will have their funding cut by 18 percent on average. The cuts themselves would be challenging to deal with, but the funding from these grants is the conduit for other additional funding to the programs, amplifying the impact of reductions. Lardent writes:
[LSC’s] funds leverage substantial additional funding from other sources, and its grantees, through pro bono, leverage millions of hours of pro bono service. If Legal Services Corp. funding diminishes, pro bono service, despite its current momentum, will decline steeply as well… Congress needs to understand that cutting funding for legal services will stop the flow of valuable and free private assistance. This proposed funding cut not only threatens the very core of access to justice; it is economically unwise.
Lardent’s column shows the big picture, but we spoke a bit more with her about the issue to flesh out some important points that didn’t make it into print.