The legal system is a complex web of civil and criminal laws, procedures and rules. And for people who don’t have the means to hire a lawyer, the pursuit of justice is too expensive to bear.
That’s why civil legal aid is a crucial component of the legal system. Legal aid services help people who cannot afford an attorney navigate the justice system and provide legal assistance on everything from health care and housing to employment and consumer exploitation. It is often the only source of help for those who have experienced trauma and find themselves in positions of extreme vulnerability.
But legal aid services are under threat. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump proposed the elimination of the federal Legal Services Corporation, the single largest source of federal funding for civil legal assistance in the United States. If Trump’s proposal to eliminate the LSC were enacted, the Northwest Justice Project, Washington state’s flagship civil legal aid provider, would lose roughly $6.5 million in legal aid funding each year.
Gov. Jay Inslee swiftly responded to the president’s proposal, challenging Congress to reject the president’s budget and labeling it “a betrayal of American values.” The governor drew the Washington congressional delegation’s attention to the detrimental effect the elimination of the LSC would have on the state.
A 2015 Civil Legal Needs Study, commissioned by the Washington Supreme Court, reported that low-income Washingtonians often face multiple civil legal problems, but too often these low-income individuals do not realize that their problems are legal in nature, and they do not receive the help they need. In fact, more than 70 percent of Washington’s low-income households experience at least one civil legal problem each year.
Read the rest of the story on the governor’s Medium page.