34 Judges J. 1 (1995)

handle is hein.journals/judgej34 and id is 1 raw text is: The Legal Services Corporation
Must Be Saved
By Francis J. Larkin

Our ideal of America is a nation in which justice is
done. The existence of injustice, especially if it derives
from poverty in this most favored of nations, erodes our
ideal of America, especially the concept of Equal
Justice for all out citizens.
This aspiration0 this pursuit of the ideal-was elo-
quently given voice by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.,
when h e was president of the American Bar
Association:
Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on
the facade of the Supreme Court building. It is
perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It
is one of the ends for which our entire legal sys-
tem exists . . . . It is fundamental that justice
should be the same, in substance and availability,
without regard to economic status.
These aspirations and sentiments have long animated
the impulse behind the Legal Services Corporation,
which is now under attack in the Congress. From the
beginning, Legal Services has been a driving force to
realize this nation's ideal of equal justice under law. In
the recent words of ABA President George Bushnell:
They've been a friend to those without powerful
friends; and they have given another chance to those
who believed they were out of chances.
The history of Legal Services is instructive. Thirty
years ago, federally funded legal aid for the poor began
as an adjunct of the -War on Poverty. Under President
Johnson's administration, money was provided for
lawyers to represent the needy in their battles with land-
lords, farm corporations, county voting registrars, and
state regulators.
The Legal Services Corporation, a non-profit entity,
was first proposed by President Richard Nixon and
established by an Act of Congress in 1974. In proposing
the establishment of LSC, Ptesident Nixon stated that
his objective was to take the politics out of legal ser-
vices for the poor and to give it a stable, ongoing, and
efficient structure. With characteristic political pre-
science, he stated: 'Legal Services is concerned with
social issues and is thus subject to unusually strong
political pressures. . . . [IIf we are to preserve the
strength of the program, we must make it immune to
political pressure and make it a permanent part of our
justice system.
In the intervening years, the lawyers of the Legal
Services Corporation have, written a proud chapter in
the long and patient cointment America has made in
its struggle for justice. Their story has been one of

progress, challenges met, and challenges overcome. But
the struggle for equal justice is far from over and great
challenges yet remain.
Suddenly, ominously, a new one has emerged. The
war on poverty has turned into a war against those in
poverty, says Alexander D, Forger, president of the
Legal Services Corporation. Today, there are bills in
Congress that would either abolish civil legal aid to the
poor Outright or indirectly would reduce dramatically its
effectiveness by relegating funding to block grants
made directly to states, where historically receptivity to
vigorous legal services efforts has been conspicuously
chilly.
What is the purpose of, or at least the effect of, these
efforts? Can anyone doubt that it is to stren-then the
hand of the financially advantaged, the powerful, and to
reduce further the modest help this country gives to the
poor and the weak?
The Editorial Board of The Judge' J0ournal Views
these challenges to the continued existence of Legal
Services as both ill-conceived and subversive of the
American system of justice. We join with the American
Bar Association, the Conference of Chief Justices, and
many other groups to support the continued funding of
the Legal Services Corporation. In the strongest of
terms, we oppose measures to abolish or distort its pur-
pose. We believe deeply that LSC promotes the princi-
ples of fair play and equality before the law upon which
this county was founded.
Our collective experience as judges and lawyers-at
all levels of the court system, state and federal-has
convinced us that the present system works well and has
provided vital access to justice for millions who uight
otherwise be denied their day in court. Collectively and
individually, we believe LSC ultimately helps to
empower people which, in turn, enhances respect for
our system of justice. In this editorial, we set forth some
of our reasons for this stand and attempt to deal with
some of the criticism ofthe present system.
A million and a halft people each year come to local
legal services offices to seek help with legal problems
that often involve critical survival issues. They come
nith faiily law problems such as child support, cus-
tody, domestic violence, and divorce issues; they come
with housing problems, such as landlord-tenant disputes
and evictions; and they come to get legal help to obtain
government benefits, such as food stamps, Aid to
Families With Dependent Children, and Supplemental
Security Income.

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