Steep budget cuts proposed today by the White House would severely undermine the fairness of the legal system and deny access to justice for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals. These include children, veterans, the elderly, people with disabilities, people in poverty, families suffering after natural disasters, survivors of domestic violence and victims of other crimes. “America must not compromise on the principles that justice is accessible to all and all are equal under the law,” said American Bar Association President Linda A. Klein.
Among the more egregious cuts to the Constitution’s promise of a fair legal process are:
- Legal Services Corporation: This program provides funding for civil legal aid to those who cannot afford it, serving people in every congressional district. The Legal Services Corporation promotes fair and efficient operation of our nation’s courts, giving low-income people representation in custody disputes, wrongful evictions, denial of benefits cases and other matters. What makes the cuts more outrageous is that more than 30 cost-benefit analyses all show that Legal Services Corporation delivers far more in benefits than it costs. Equal access to justice is the cornerstone of our American justice system and without the LSC, courthouse doors all over the country would slam closed for millions of Americans.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness: The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program encourages people to work in lower-paying but critically needed jobs that serve the public good. Without loan forgiveness, fewer people would be able to dedicate their lives to public service as prosecutors, public defenders, legal aid lawyers and other justice-related fields, especially in underserved rural areas.
“While these and other programs affecting access to justice have been targeted for harsh reductions, many other parts of the proposed budget would also do severe damage to the most vulnerable people in our society by cutting access to food assistance, medical care, housing and the other necessities of life,” Klein says.
As the budget process moves forward, the American Bar Association urges Congress to reinstate adequate funding for these important and valuable programs. In order to “establish justice,” as our Constitution calls on us to do, these programs must be preserved.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession.