Law firms warn Trump against defunding Legal Services Corp.

March 15, 2017

POSTED MAR 10, 2017 05:30 PM CST

BY VICTOR LI

The heads of more than 150 U.S. law firms, including several of the largest firms in the world, have written a letter to the Trump administration expressing concern regarding a reported proposal to eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corp.

The Am Law Daily reported yesterday that the law firm leaders had sent the letter to the Office of Management and Budget detailing the important work that the LSC performs and requesting that the president modify his proposed budget, so that the LSC can remain fully funded.

The president has not issued his proposed budget yet. However, he has campaigned on a promise to significantly slash spending. According to the Am Law Daily, the LSC, which was founded in 1974 after passing both Democratically controlled houses of Congress and signed into law by Republican President Richard Nixon, is one of the programs being considered for elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

The consequences could be severe. The letter’s signatories stated that their ability to provide pro bono representation to those in need is dependent on partnering with legal aid organizations funded by the LSC. According to the letter, the LSC-funded legal aid organizations provide invaluable assistance in screening cases for volunteering lawyers and training them for the pro bono representations they choose to take on. The letter also pointed out that, for millions of law-income individuals, especially those living in rural areas, LSC-funded organizations might be their only means of legal help.

“Eliminating the Legal Services Corporation will not only imperil the ability of civil legal aid organizations to serve Americans in need, it will also vastly diminish the private bar’s capacity to help these individuals,” the letter stated. “The pro bono activity facilitated by LSC funding is exactly the kind of public-private partnership the government should encourage, not eliminate.”

According to the Am Law Daily, the Office of Management and Budget did not respond to a request for comment.

Jim Sandman, president of the LSC, told CNNMoney that he has not heard a peep from the Office of Management and Budget about its funding—a clear break with precedent.

“LSC has received no response to the budget request we submitted to the Office of Management and Budget last September, even though other agencies are reported to have received responses to their requests last week,” Sandman said. “It seems to be a signal.”

The LSC has requested $502 million for fiscal year 2017—an increase of $15.8 million compared to last year’s request. According to the LSC, the organization was appropriated $385 million during fiscal year 2016 and $375 million in fiscal year 2015.

Read the article here.