News Release

Texas Access to Justice Commission
Texas Access to Justice Foundation
 
Nov. 15, 2011

Statement from Harry M. Reasoner and Richard L. Tate on Funding Cuts to Texas LSC-funded Legal Aid Programs

Austin, Texas – The following statement was issued today by Harry M. Reasoner, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission and Richard L. Tate, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation board of directors:

“We learned today that a House-Senate conference agreement cuts funding to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) by $56,190,000, or 13.9 percent.  The entire cut comes from funding for basic field programs, amounting to 14.8 percent of the critical funding used by LSC grantees to provide access to justice in the United States

In Texas, the three largest providers of civil legal services – Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid – will face a combined reduction of 15 percent, approximately $4.8 million, for Fiscal Year 2012 in funding from the LSC.  This is in addition to the four percent cut these programs received earlier this year, and will result in significantly fewer services available to those most in need.    Legal Services Corporation funding comprises approximately one-third of the funding for legal aid in Texas.  These cuts are exacerbated by the precipitous decline of revenue from the Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program, a primary source of legal aid funding, due to historically low interest rates.

Clearly, this is a challenging environment for fiscal decisions, as it is also for the more than six million low-income Texans who qualify for legal aid. This funding cut will directly affect the families who desperately seek representation in cases like those involving child abuse, domestic violence, foreclosures, and denial of disability benefits to veterans.

We are extremely grateful for the leadership and support of /span> Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in this arduous budget process, as this cut represents a compromise that splits the difference between the Senate and House appropriations bills.  We also are fortunate to have the support of the Texas Legislature, which provided critical state funding to help deal with some of the gap resulting from the IOLTA funding crisis.  Regrettably, the LSC cuts further widen the already existing gap.

We must continue our work in finding solutions for funding legal aid at the national, state, and local levels. We will continue to support the State Bar of Texas in efforts to increase the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of pro bono representation now being given and to enhance alternatives such as self-representation for those who cannot obtain any kind of legal representation.  We will also continue to inform lawmakers, lawyers and the public about the critical need for legal services and the role of the rule of law in these very difficult economic times.”

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The Texas Access to Justice Commission was created in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice in civil legal matters for low-income Texans. The Commission has created several initiatives to increase resources and awareness of legal aid. For more information, please visit www.TexasATJ.org.

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the primary state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to more than 100,000 Texans each year.

Contact: Kimberly Schmitt
512-320-0099, ext. 104 or 512-944-4021
kschmitt@teajf.org

 

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