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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Sunday, March 19, 2017

25 Catholic Law School Deans Join ABA, 150 Law Firms In Opposing President Trump's Proposed Elimination Of The Legal Services Corp.

LSC (2017)National Law Journal, Legal Services Corp., Under Trump, Faces New Threat to Existence:

The Legal Services Corp., created in 1974 under the signature of President Richard Nixon, is once again on the chopping block as another Republican president — Donald Trump — proposes to zero out its funding in his first budget. The group’s 2017 budget request was $502 million.

ABA Journal, Trump Budget Eliminates Legal Services Corp. Funding:

The American Bar Association is “outraged” that the Trump administration is calling to eliminate funding for the LSC and is calling upon members of Congress to restore it, ABA President Linda Klein said in a statement Thursday. Klein noted that LSC offices are in every congressional district and help 1.9 million people annually.

“Some of the worthy services the LSC provides include securing housing for veterans, protecting seniors from scams, delivering legal services to rural areas, protecting victims of domestic abuse and helping disaster survivors,” Klein wrote. “More than 30 cost-benefit studies all show that legal aid delivers far more in benefits than it costs,” Klein wrote. “If veterans become homeless, or disaster victims cannot rebuild, their costs to society are significantly more.”

Also supporting the LSC are the heads of more than 150 U.S. law firms, who told Trump in a letter that eliminating funding would hamper their ability to provide pro bono representation because they partner with legal aid groups receiving LSC funding.

Legal Aid DefenderABA Journal, ABA Mobilizes 'Legal Aid Defenders' to Fight for LSC Survival:

The American Bar Association has begun mobilizing in defense of the Legal Services Corp. ... [T]the ABA has launched a new social media campaign in defense of the nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. ... A Friday Facebook post by the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility calls upon LSC supporters to register as “Legal Aid Defenders” on a new website,

25 Catholic law school deans sent this letter to Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget opposing the elimination of the LSC:

The justice gap should concern all Americans, but we take a special interest in the problem as leaders of our nation’s Catholic law schools. Though we represent law schools of various sizes, with unique histories, serving distinct communities in different regions of the country, we share a commitment to make the justice system more accessible to the poor. This is not just a matter of good citizenship or professional duty, but Catholic identity. As Saint John Paul II explained, “Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice.” (Centesimus annus ¶ 58) Our legal aid clinics, pro bono programs, and many other school-specific initiatives bear witness to this commitment. Closing the justice gap also relies on support from state and local governments, law firms, foundations, and a broad spectrum of private philanthropy.

The LSC’s support, however, is irreplaceable, not just as a matter of practical reality, but as an affirmation of our political community’s core commitments. The Church teaches that the state is responsible to cultivate the conditions by which “the common good may be attained by the contribution of every citizen.” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church ¶168) By helping ensure access to our justice system for citizens who could otherwise not afford legal representation, the LSC empowers individuals and families to contribute to the common good by giving them more control over their own lives. The LSC promotes justice by leveling the playing field for all Americans.

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The median income of the roughly 780,000 attorneys practicing in the US was about $116,000 in 2015 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). A $640 contribution (~0.06% of income) from each and LSC is funded. I'm guessing the half living above the median could readily contribute more.

Posted by: Daiwa | Mar 19, 2017 8:30:12 AM

I did not know what lawyers make per year on average, but I was thinking that if all lawyers (to include law instructors/professors) were required to contribute, either in time or money, an amount equivalent to 0.1% of all their billable hours per year to indigent law support, then the amount supported by the LSC would be covered. I see by Daiwa's post that my amount is apparently higher than what it would take.

Posted by: Keith | Mar 19, 2017 9:42:27 AM

The average income for 2015 was ~$136,000. I was using the median as a more conservative basis for the calculation. I would not expect the ABA to be a source of or conduit for LSC funding as only a little over half of practicing attorneys are members, but they are using member dues money to lobby for continued taxpayer funding of LSC.

Posted by: Daiwa | Mar 19, 2017 11:59:05 AM

"If the [X number of doctors in the country] contributed [Y% of their income or time] then we wouldn't need Medicaid."

"If the [X number of public school teachers in the country] contributed [Y% of their income or time] then we wouldn't need public funding of public schools."

"If the [X number of engineers in the country] contributed [Y% of their income or time] then we wouldn't need public funding for roads and bridges."

Those all sound silly, right? Because we think of -- or at least, used to think of -- basic health care for the indigent, public schools, and infrastructure as public goods to be funded by the public fisc. The same train of thought is behind the support of LSC.

Posted by: anon | Mar 19, 2017 1:18:53 PM

If Medicaid were nothing but physician's compensation for caring for the indigent, I could agree with you about doctors, anon. But it's a bit more than that.

If I had suggested that lawyers could pay for the entire legal system, I could understand your point about teachers and engineers. Otherwise, those are not particularly good comparisons, to be kind. LSC is hardly 'infrastructure'. No question it is a moral good, I'm just not convinced it should be a federally financed public good.

Posted by: Daiwa | Mar 19, 2017 9:58:23 PM