2017-2019: The Trump Administration

The budget submissions for Fiscal Year 2018 and Fiscal Year 2019 of the Trump Administration called for the elimination of LSC and no further funding. A range of groups were in opposition including the American Bar Association and numerous state and local bar associations, Corporation General Counsels of over 185 corporations, most leading newspaper editorial boards, major national law firms, over 150 law school deans, and the Presidents of the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators. An example of bi-partisan support is the new Congressional Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus launched by Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-MA) in December 2015 with Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN).

The budget submission of the Administration was just the beginning of a long process. Congress appriated $410 for FY2018 and $415 for FY2019.

While the Trump Administration has proposed to eliminate it, LSC continued to operate and the LSC board appointed by President Obama and the LSC President remain.

In July 2017, LSC released a new toolkit on legal aid websites created by Ernst & Young LLP. On April 25, 2017, LSC, Microsoft Corporation, and Pro Bono Net named Alaska and Hawaii as state partners in a pilot program to develop online, statewide legal portals to direct individuals with civil legal needs to the most appropriate forms of assistance.

In June 2017, LSC released The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low income Americans. Prepared by NORC at the University of Chicago for Legal Services Corporation, Washington, D.C., the report found that in 2017, low-income Americans will approach LSC-funded legal aid organizations for help with an estimated 1.7 million civil legal problems. They will receive legal help of some kind for 59 percent of these problems,but are expected to receive enough help to fully address their legal needs for only 28percent to 38 percent of them. More than half (53 percent to 70 percent) of the problems that low-income Americans bring to LSC grantees will receive limited legal help or no legal help at all because of a lack of resources to serve them. The study found seven of every 10low-income households have experienced at least one civil legal problem in the past year.

A full 70 percent of low-income Americans with civil legal problems reported that at least one of their problems affected them very much or severely. They seek legal help, however,for only 20 percent of their civil legal problems. Many who do not seek legal help report concerns about the cost of such help, not being sure if their issues are legal in nature, and not knowing where to look for help.