New ABA poll: Americans strongly support legal aid

The ABA announces:  “Many Americans report their financial fortunes are falling, but a new survey commissioned by the American Bar Association and conducted by Harris Interactive records high support levels for provision of the basic legal help for those in crisis . . . .  In the wake of the recession, grantees of [the] Legal Services Corporation in all regions of the country are reporting a wave of new clients seeking help.  Agencies say that common issues include: foreclosure prevention, late payments on medical bills, car and credit cards, and delinquent child support . . . .  U.S. adults overwhelmingly back provision of legal services for those facing serious legal and financial problems who could not hire a lawyer: Over two-thirds (68 percent) say it’s extremely or very important that Americans have access to legal resources and advice when they are in crisis . . . .  Americans also strongly support the existence of, and federal funding for, the work of Legal Services Corporation and its grantees.  Eighty-eight percent agreed that it is essential that a non-profit provider of legal services is available to assist those who could not otherwise afford legal help.  Two thirds support federal funding to help Americans who need that assistance.”

For ABA’s one-page summary of the results, click here.  To read the full study, click here.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Press Release, “Legal Aid Poll Should Prompt Congress to Restore Equal Access to Justice, Says Harkin,” April 20, 2009

In response to the ABA poll, Senator Tom Harkin said: “Congress should act immediately to restore equal access to justice.  Harkin, a former legal aid attorney, is the author of a Senate measure that will expand and improve vital civil legal aid in this country.  The Civil Access to Justice Act increases funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) [a major funder of Maryland Legal Aid], lifts many of the restrictions on LSC-funded attorneys and improves corporate governance at LSC.  ‘As a former Legal Services attorney, I know firsthand how crucial legal assistance is to protecting the safety, security and health of struggling families who have no place else to turn.  In this economic downturn, the need for legal representation is higher than ever, yet limited resources and severe restrictions on LSC-funded attorneys impede the ability of legal aid attorneys to provide the most meaningful representation,’ said Harkin.  ‘Everyone in this country–regardless of income–deserves access to justice and quality legal representation.  This poll proves that Congress must act immediately on legislation that restores the principle of equal justice under law.'”

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