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The state of legal aid today

There have been a number of articles appearing in the media recently with regard to the state and accessibility of legal aid all across the country.  Here is a brief recap of the issue:

The lack of adequate legal care for many Americans is often due to the fact that they simply cannot afford the legal services they need. This creates an unfair legal system that often provides only those with the economic wherewithal equal access to justice.  Long recognizing the substantial need for affordable legal services in America, the government has provided funding for legal aid programs for decades. However, the recent downturn in the economy has caused the funding to markedly decrease, thus creating a lack of resources for the providers of free or affordable legal services. Because legal aid programs are being cut, and so many people still need legal help, there is hardly a semblance of equal access and many low income people are being denied basic legal services. Many homeowners have lost their jobs, many low income seniors need legal advice, and legal services are often forced to turn away people who are clearly deserving of help because there is not enough staff or funding to help everyone. Jim Sandman, the president of national Legal Services Corp. worries that, “The legal services system in the United States today is in a state of crisis.” (Click here for full article)

The dean of the University of New Hampshire Law School, John T Broderick Jr.,  compared the state of current legal aid to that of the emergency room (click here for full article). He explained that even people with minor injuries in an emergency room would not be able to leave without treatment; however, that is what is happening now in our legal system. In addition to funding provided by state governments and Congress, legal services have also historically acquired financial aid from interest on trust accounts created by lawyers for their clients. However, because interest rates are extremely low, that has not been a successful way of gaining capital either. Currently, Congress is deciding how much money it will allocate to legal services for the coming year.

Bet Tzedek, with its over 38 year history of providing service, is committed to “Justice for All” –  assisting those most in need in our community, regardless of ethnic or religious background.

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