April 12, 2017

Trump's latest victims: low income Americans who need legal aid

American  Prospect - President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year puts on the chopping block America’s core ideals of basic fairness and equal access to justice.

The so-called “skinny budget,” released last month by the Office of Management and Budget, proposes wiping out all federal financing for the 43-year-old Legal Services Corporation, the publicly funded but independently run nonprofit that is the largest source of support for high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income Americans—and a fundamental expression of the nation’s commitment to equal justice under law.

Readers of a certain age, for example, will recall President Ronald Reagan’s bruising but ultimately unsuccessful 1980s drive to eliminate LSC funding, pursuing a cause he’d championed in his previous gig as California’s Republican governor.

When Republicans won control of both chambers of Congress in 1994, they renewed the warfare against the civil legal services program. Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his cohorts failed to win abolition, but the program’s survival came at a price: deep funding cuts and pernicious restrictions intended to hamper the effectiveness and efficiency of lawyers for the poor, including a ban on filing litigation based on class-action lawsuits still in effect.

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