Equal Access Defined: Deep in the Heart ‘O Texas

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Last Friday, 12/12/08, the Austin American Statesman published an Op-Ed by Helaine M. Barnett, the President of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). In the Op-Ed, Ms. Barnett eloquently describes the gap in legal justice for those able to pay for legal representation and those unable to pay for it. Here are some excerpts:

The people who come to LSC-funded programs for help are the most vulnerable among us.

Census Bureau data show that nearly 51 million Americans have an income of less than 125 percent of the federal poverty guideline (for a family of four, $26,500 a year) and therefore are eligible for civil legal aid from LSC-funded programs.

Those programs lack the funding and staff to provide civil legal assistance to all who seek help.

Across the nation, the outlook is not encouraging. Recessions disproportionately affect the poor, causing a loss of jobs, health care and housing.

Ensuring that the poor are adequately represented in the civil judicial system greatly improves their chances of keeping or securing basic necessities — the keys to stability and self-sufficiency.

Please take a moment to read through Ms. Barnett’s Op-Ed or watch her presentation to the Texas Supreme Court at the December 10, 2008 public hearing on civil legal justice.

-RFW

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