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October 28, 2009

ABA Testifies Before Congress on Need to Improve Funding of, Lift Restrictions on, Legal Services Corporation

Citing rapidly rising poverty levels and a convergence of bad financial news at the state level, the ABA called for a “significant increase in resources devoted to Legal Services Corporation.”

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, Committee on Judiciary, on behalf of the ABA concerning the Legal Services Corporation, immediate past ABA President H. Thomas Wells called current federal funding “grossly inadequate” and asked for an amount that more closely matched the current need and rates of inflation. Wells estimated that, if funding had simply kept pace with inflation since 1981, LSC would receive an $800 million appropriation instead of the $390 million it was appropriated in fiscal year 2009.

Wells also noted that three funding restrictions prevent local legal aid recipients from best using the resources they are given, and that several violate principles of federalism. The ABA is calling on Congress to remove restrictions on use of other non-LSC funds, enable recovery of statutorily authorized attorneys’ fees, and allow LSC-funded programs to use federal funds to file class actions on behalf of low-income victims of unscrupulous practices.

Wells also spoke at length about the private bar’s increasing pro bono efforts to support local legal aid programs and ensure Americans have access to justice.

A full copy of the testimony can be found at: http://www.abanet.org/poladv/letters/legalservices/2009oct27_lsch_t.pdf

With nearly 400,000 members, the _ is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Learn More About:  Pro BonoWells, H. Thomas Jr.