Times are Tough… Time for Civil Gideon
I've seen some pretty troubling figures about legal aid, and it's no wonder. Legal aid is completely stretched thin as more people find themselves in the middle of desperate civil legal battles due to the recession, while simultaneously legal aid organizations across the country are finding their funding slashed due to the downturn.
I think this is perhaps the starkest such statistic I've encountered so far:
[A]lthough 50 percent of New Mexicans qualify for Legal Aid services based on income, the entire state has only 43 attorneys working for Legal Aid.
“The needs of the poor in New Mexico are great,” Kuffer said... “And although Legal Aid would like to help them all, we can’t.”
Such sobering blog content for a Friday evening, isn't it? Especially with a long weekend ahead of us. But not thinking about it surely won't make it go away, and won't help the people personally affected by this reality. In fact, consider it a blessing if you are able to enjoy some nice, simple moments this holiday weekend without worrying about how an upcoming legal matter will affect your life. Appreciate it and do something fun with loved ones this weekend, knowing that, unfortunately, there will still be plenty of work to do in the field of civil justice after the holiday is over.
Here's the full article. It's actually pretty enlightening about the extent of legal needs out there right now due to the financial downturn. It's also helpful to keep this information in mind as we encounter more arguments against the provision of legal aid to the poor, based, ironically, on the argument that we don't have enough money for it. (By the way, the truth is that when provided upfront, legal aid can actually help cities and state governments avoid higher direct spending. From the Brennan Center: "Despite the cost of providing lawyers for tenants facing eviction, it will save the city money almost immediately... HRA's calculations show that the city will avert four dollars in costs associated with homelessness for every dollar that it spends on eviction prevention.")