TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, June 19, 2017

86% Of The Civil Legal Needs Of Low-Income Americans Are Unmet

LSCLegal Services Corp., The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans:

The phrase “with liberty and justice for all” in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance represents the idea that everyone should have access to justice, not just those who can afford legal representation.In criminal cases, legal assistance is a right. Americans accused of a crime are appointed legal counsel if they cannot afford it. As a general matter, however, there is no right to counsel in civil matters. As a result, many low-income Americans “go it alone” without legal representation in disputes where they risk losing their job, their livelihood, their home, or their children, or seek a restraining order against an abuser.

This “justice gap” – the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs – has stretched into a gulf. State courts across the country are overwhelmed with unrepresented litigants. In 2015, for example, an estimated 1.8 million people appeared in the New York State courts without a lawyer. And we know that 98% of tenants in eviction cases and 95% of parents in child support cases were unrepresented in these courts in 2013. Comparable numbers can be found in courts across the United States. 

This study explores the extent of the justice gap in 2017, describing the volume of civil legal needs faced by low-income Americans, assessing the extent to which they seek and receive help, and measuring the size of the gap between their civil legal needs and the resources available to address these needs.

  • In the past year, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help.
  • 71% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year, including problems with health care, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits, and domestic violence.
  • In 2017, low-income Americans will approach LSC-funded legal aid organizations for support with an estimated 1.7 million problems. They will receive only limited or no legal help for more than half of these problems due to a lack of resources.

Press and blogosphere coverage:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/06/86-of-the-civil-legal-needs-of-low-income-americans-are-unmet.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

What sort of metric do they use to measure 'needs'. Around about 1971, Rep. Martha Griffiths (D-Mich) blew up at an advocate for the social work industry testifying at a congressional hearing. "Needs? Needs is a phony standard invented by a paternalistic middle class. The real standard is what similar people earn, and how they are treated".

"71% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year, including problems with health care, housing conditions, disability access, veterans’ benefits, and domestic violence."

Thomas Sowell identified this bit of gamesmanship as standard practice a generation ago. They try to sell you a program using laundry lists without giving any indication of of the share accounted for by each client contingent. (Perhaps 6% of the civilian population born between 1955 and 1995 has a history of military service (much less service-related disabilities). "Disability access" refers to causes of action manufactured by wretched excesses of anti-discrimination law. Under 'housing conditions' you have causes multiplied by rent-control (in certain jurisdictions) and the tangle of obligations which attend accepting Section 8 vouchers. Under 'domestic violence', you have the law called in to adjudicate the spitting arguments that volatile and impetuous people engage in (which the authors will indubitably present and one of their mascots being victimized by da big bad wolf). 'Problems with health care' you can bet dollars to doughnuts refers to disputes arising over confusion (derived from our rococo means of financing medical care) over what services and reimbursements people are due and what they are not.

Posted by: Art Deco | Jun 19, 2017 8:15:56 AM

Post a comment