The Trump Administration proposes to eliminate the Legal Services Corp., which has provided federal funding for civil legal aid since 1974. If this terrible proposal becomes reality, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, would lose $1.4 million, almost a quarter of its budget.
Pine Tree provides free legal aid to help low-income and vulnerable veterans, elders, children and families. When these Mainers are involved in civil legal cases (as opposed to criminal cases) the law does not require that they have a court-appointed lawyer. LSC provides federal funds so that when their livelihood, health, and families are on the line, they do have representation and a fair shot.
Gutting civil legal aid would devastate low-income families and vulnerable people in Maine and throughout the U.S. Especially hard hit would be rural areas, where legal help is scarce.
Civil legal aid is a good investment. Everyone benefits when someone remains housed. Housing stabilizes families and helps them remain self-sufficient, ultimately saving taxpayers’ money.
Funding for LSC is a minuscule slice of the federal budget – roughly one-hundredth of 1 percent. However, it is an essential building block for assuring social stability and fairness in the justice system.
Civil legal aid has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support, because Americans believe in justice for all, not just for those who can afford it. I urge all readers to contact U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin and ask them to support LSC.
William Robitzek, president
Maine Justice Foundation