LANGUAGE ACCESS AT NCSC
The Language Access Services Section (LASS) provides state courts with resources to overcome language barriers in the courts and to ensure that providing individuals with limited English proficiency with access to the courts is a core function of the courts.
Issue: Legal Services Corporation (LSC)
Funding for the Legal Corporation Services (LSC) has plummeted since its founding. This has worsened the “justice gap” for poorer populations across the country.
State court leaders have repeatedly called for increased funding for LSC and opposed any cuts in funding. (See for example, CCJ Resolution 12-M-1 and COSCA Resolution 12-B-1)
In the 111th Congress, there were efforts to improve funding for LSC. The Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009 (S 718 and HR 3764) would have increased funding for the LSC to 1981 levels (adjusted for inflation), remove several of the perennial restrictions that have been placed on LSC programs in Congressional appropriations, and impose certain management reforms on LSC in response to a Government Accountability Office report.
For FY 2012, LSC suffered a $56 million (14%) cut to its budget. The appropriation caused additional layoffs of legal aid staff and, as a consequence, the reduction of legal services to low income persons facing mortgage foreclosures and other effects from the economic recession.
CCJ and COSCA Government Affairs Committee published an information-rich “white paper” to assist CCJ and COSCA leaders in making effective entreaties to members of Congress during the highly accelerated FY 2013 funding cycle. The white paper has continually been useful in helping stave off efforts to defund the LSC.
At their annual meeting in July, CCJ and COSCA adopted a resolution encouraging members to consider the ABA Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives’ list of best practices for “Supreme Court Leadership on State Legislative Funding for Civil Legal Aid” as a worthy guide for their own endeavors to obtain increased funding for civil legal services to disadvantaged populations. The Conferences also adopted a resolution reaffirming the necessity of full funding for LSC.
For FY 2017 the LSC Board of Directors recommended funding at $507.5 million. The President recommended $475 million. Thereafter the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a mark of $395 million to the full Senate. The House Appropriations Committee recommended a $350 million funding level to the House. However, by early Fall, the national election cycle led Congress to avoid adopting an omnibus FY2017 appropriation, opting instead to adopt a continuing resolution (CR) funding all federal agencies at FY 2016 levels ($390 M for LSC) until 12/9/16.
On 6/13/16, at the invitation of the LSC Board, the presidents of CCJ and COSCA wrote a letter to the LSC Board urging them to propose a FY 2018 budget to Congress that “substantially” increases LSC funding.
After a year-end CR extended FY 2016 spending levels until April, the 115th Congress will impose its will on the FY 2017 appropriations and as well as for FY 2018.