LEGAL AID: A SPECIAL REPORT

The Power of Hope

An in-depth report examining the impact of legal aid programs on clients and the politics surrounding funding.

The National Law Journal

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As Congress considers deep cuts in legal assistance to the poor, The National Law Journal examines the impact of legal aid programs on the clients they serve and the political issues surrounding the present funding crisis. As these stories demonstrate, the need is great, and cases run the gamut — from domestic violence to home foreclosures to medical claims. In all, a common theme emerges: Legal aid, for these clients, was their only hope.

On the brink of ruin, a rescue
Liz Morgan Hitt faced cancer and financial disaster after her divorce. That's when her legal aid lawyer came to the rescue. Ryan Poe-Gavlinski, a staff attorney at Legal Aid of West Virginia, won alimony payments that helped her client launch a successful business selling handbags.
NLJ VIDEO  A Legal Aid Story: Martinsburg, W. Va. Legal Aid of West Virginia lawyers discuss Liz Morgan Hitt's case and the challenges of serving clients in a widespread rural community.
 
Speaking their language
Cuts to legal services funding would hobble a program that helps Spanish-speakers in rural Georgia defend their rights.
 
 

Abuse victim stands up for her rights
Pine Tree Legal Assistance of Maine helped a South Portland mother of three with orders of protection and divorce.
 
 
 
  
Homeowners Alone
Efforts to keep people in their homes are at risk in a sprawling region of Southern California that's been hit hard by the mortgage meltdown.
 
A grandmother fights to keep her family intact
Clary Fitzpatrick was raising four grandchildren, caring for her bedridden daughter and facing eviction. Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida helped Fitzpatrick keep her apartment and found public assistance for her daughter, too.
 
 

In rural Missouri, two lawyers, vast spaces
Covering a swath of 2,200 miles in an area where the poverty rate is almost twice the national average, the two-lawyer outpost of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri handled 600 cases in 2010.
 
 
 
For legal aid providers, a litany of funding woes
Legal Services Corp. cuts would be just one more blow after declines in IOLTA and state financing.
 
  
 
Program that saves people's homes in danger
Already down one office, Kentucky legal assistance program fears that proposed cuts would be 'devastating.'
 
A paycheck lost, a home in jeopardy
When an emergency surgery upended the lives of Constance Chandler and her five children, she turned to Bay Area Legal Aid.
 
 
 
In Puerto Rico, bracing for the blow
The commonwealth is the largest recipient of U.S. support, but nearly half its residents qualify for legal assistance.
 
 
 
THE HISTORY
 
For LSC, a 30-year funding rollercoaster
What makes the Legal Services Corp. a perennial target for budget cutters, sought primarily by conservative lawmakers and groups despite tough congressional restrictions on its activities? Part is purely political: an ongoing effort on the right to defund or weaken allegedly left-leaning institutions. And, perhaps most critically, fundamental disagreement continues over the LSC's mission. 
 
 
THE POLITICS
 
Looking for allies in Congress, and finding few
Legal Service Corp.'s most important allies are House Democrats, and as the minority in their chamber they have effectively been cut out of negotiations.
 
 
 
For the ABA, a never-ending war
The American Bar Association is mounting a major lobbying drive in the defense of legal aid for the poor.
 
 
 
Kenneth Boehm was once a senior official of the Legal Services Corp., serving as counsel to its board of directors from 1991 to 1994. Since then, Boehm has been one of the LSC's most persistent critics, urging reform and even elimination of the agency.
 
 
 
TOP RECIPIENTS OF FEDERAL FUNDING
The 50 programs that receive the most money from Legal Services Corp.
 
 
 

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