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Letters to the 107th Congress

July 18, 2001

The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings, Chairman
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State,
the Judiciary and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
S-206 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Judd Gregg, Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State,
the Judiciary and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
S-125 Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510

Subject: FY 2002 Funding for the Legal Services Corporation and the Judiciary's Defender Services Program

Dear Mr. Chairman and Senator Gregg:

Your Subcommittee will mark up shortly the Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary appropriations bill for FY 2002. The American Bar Association urges you and your colleagues to provide adequate funding for two essential programs that help guarantee equal access to justice: the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and the Federal Judiciary's Defender Services Program.

In his FY 2002 budget request, President George W. Bush requested $329.3 million for the LSC. This amount represents level funding from FY 2001's $330 million, minus the government-wide .22 percent across-the-board cut. The Administration's budget request further states that

[t]he Federal Government, through LSC, ensures equal access to our Nation's legal system by providing funding for civil legal assistance to low-income persons. For millions of Americans, LSC-funded legal services is the only resource available to access the justice system. LSC provides direct grants to independent local legal services programs chosen through a system of competition. LSC programs serve clients in every State and county in the Nation. Last year, LSC-funded programs provided legal assistance and information to almost one million clients. Legal services clients are as diverse as the Nation, encompassing all races, ethnic groups, and ages. They include the working poor, veterans, family farmers, people with disabilities, and victims of natural disasters. The most common types of cases that people bring to LSC-funded offices are related to domestic violence, family law, housing, employment, Government benefits, and consumer matters.

The ABA strongly agrees with the Administration's description and endorsement of LSC and we appreciate the Administration's support for this essential program. However, we also agree with the bipartisan group of Senators who are urging your Subcommittee to fund LSC at at least $375 million because substantially more funding is required to assist all qualified individuals who need help with basic legal problems. The ABA, in fact, recommends that at a minimum LSC should be funded at $465 million.

The ABA also urges the Subcommittee to fully fund the Judiciary's request of $522 million for Defender Services under the Criminal Justice Act. This amount would cover a rate increase for panel attorneys to $113 per hour. The $113 hourly rate represents the flat $75 rate authorized by Congress in 1986, adjusted to reflect annual pay increases authorized by Congress but never implemented because of insufficient funds. The $113 hourly rate is actually substantially lower than many federal Departments and agencies currently pay for retained counsel for various legal matters, as documented in the new GAO study prepared at the request of Representative William Delahunt. Chief Justice Rehnquist has said repeatedly that low pay for panel attorneys "is seriously hampering the ability of the federal courts to recruit and retain qualified panel attorneys to provide effective representation" under the Criminal Justice Act.

Your support for adequate funding for both the Legal Services Corporation and the Judiciary's Criminal Justice Act panel attorney program would be most appreciated.

Sincerely,

Robert D. Evans
Director, Governmental Affairs Office

cc: Members of the Appropriations Committee

107th Congress Letters Home

AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION
Governmental Affairs Office
740 Fifteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
ph: 202-662-1760
fx: 202-662-1762

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