Pro Bono News
Legal Services Alabama Serves Thousands In State. Program, a Partisan Battleground, on President Trump's Budget-Cut List (AL)
Thursday, August 30, 2018
Legal Services Alabama Serves Thousands In State. Program, a Partisan Battleground, on President Trump's Budget-Cut List
"Army veteran Ronald Whitson gives credit to Legal Services Alabama for keeping his family home in Birmingham.
“I’ve been to the top, and I’ve been to the basement, and I know how important Legal Services is,” Whitson said.
For Mike Letson, Whitson’s LSA attorney, what he did for Whitson is more than a job, it’s a passion.
“You feel you are on the right side of justice,” he said.
However, the program that Whitson and Letson praise has been controversial, the frequent target of partisan political battles since its start in the mid-1970s, with roots in the nation’s War on Poverty. Now the Alabama program’s federal parent, Legal Services Corporation, once again faces defunding, this time in President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal.
Justifications for defunding the LSC include concern about the program’s lack of accountability measures and the value of transferring responsibility to the states to “encourage nonprofit organizations, businesses, law firms and religious institutions to develop new models for providing legal aid.”
LSC helps provide legal assistance to low-income people in civil matters, including housing, family law and veterans’ rights. The agency distributes its $385 million budget through grants to 133 offices nationwide, including Legal Services Alabama’s seven offices and one call center.
Historically receiving support from Democratic politicians, bar associations and social service advocates, Legal Services has been criticized by some conservative groups and marked for elimination by Republican administrations multiple times in its 44-year history.
In the budget proposal of the current Republican administration, Legal Services is among almost 100 agencies and programs slated to be defunded immediately or over a multi-year time period. Of these, 66 agencies have operations in Alabama, a state heavily dependent on federal funding..."