What Is The Legal Services Corporation?
The U.S. constitution guarantees access to a lawyer when someone is accused of a crime. But, there is no constitutional right to an attorney when someone faces a civil action. The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) was created in 1974 to ensure that low-income individuals and families have access to justice and due process.
LSC is the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the country. LSC promotes equal access to justice by funding high-quality civil legal assistance for low-income Americans. LSC currently funds 133 local legal aid programs in every congressional district and five U.S. territories. With more than 800 offices nationwide, these organizations serve thousands of families, veterans, seniors, and individuals in every congressional district.
LSC provides funds to ensure that eligible constituents can navigate the legal system. LSC grantees provide legal assistance—at no cost—to low-income constituents who could not otherwise afford an attorney. These grantees provide important constituent services by helping women and children escape domestic violence, assisting veterans, helping families with housing issues, and helping seniors ward off consumer scams.
The Corporation is headed by a bipartisan board of directors whose 11 members are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Who are helped by LSC-funded programs?
LSC grantees help constituents who live in households with annual incomes at or below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines—in 2018, $15,175 for an individual, and $31,375 for family of four. Eligible constituents span every demographic and live in rural, suburban, and urban areas. They include veterans and military families, homeowners and renters, families with children, farmers, the disabled, and the elderly.
More than 70% of the clients are women—many of whom are struggling to keep their children safe and their families together
What kind of help is available?
LSC grantees provide a wide range of civil legal assistance to their clients. The most frequent cases involve:
- Family law: LSC grantees help victims of domestic violence by obtaining protective and restraining orders, help parents obtain and keep custody of their children, assist family members in obtaining guardianship for children without parents, and other family law matters. In 2017, LSC grantees reported 120,944 domestic violence cases.
- Helping Veterans and Military Families: LSC grantees assisted 42,389 veteran households with a range of legal problems in 2017. Many veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home to legal problems—such as child custody disputes, evictions, and denials of earned benefits—that LSC grantees handle regularly. A growing number of grantees are partnering with veterans’ organizations, advocates, and other service providers to do outreach and expand legal services to veterans.
- Natural Disasters: LSC has a long history with helping victims of natural disasters. Working in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, and national and local recovery organizations, LSC grantees set up recovery hotlines, staff FEMA disaster recovery centers, and provide direct representation to low-income survivors.
- Housing Cases: In 2017, LSC grantees helped more than half a million people secure or retain access to safe, affordable housing. Housing cases represent more than 28% of all cases closed by LSC grantees nationwide (229,000 cases), the second largest category of cases.
- Rural Areas: Due to the relative isolation of many rural communities, legal aid attorneys often represent the only help available for civil legal problems. While 20% of the nation’s population resides in rural communities, only two percent of lawyers serve these communities.In some states, there are counties without any attorneys, and in some rural communities, people must drive long distances to get help. LSC established a Rural Summer Legal Corps in 2016 to allow law students from across the country to provide legal services to low-income Americans living in rural communities.
How many are helped?
In 2017, LSC-funded programs closed 727,219 cases nationwide, involving households with more than 1.7 million people.
Based on the most recent information from Census Bureau, approximately 60.3 million Americans are eligible for LSC-funded legal assistance.