The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is the single-largest funder of civil legal services, or legal aid, in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored a longstanding and growing problem faced by ow-income Americans served by LSC-funded legal aid organizations: the growing "justice gap." The justice gap represents the unmet civil legal needs of low-income Americans. The justice gap perpetuates poverty, conceals health-harming legal problems, and furthers racial disparities. Despite the LSC’s essential role in reducing the justice gap and promoting “equal access to justice,” Congress consistently underfunded the LSC before and during COVID-19. Congress has also prohibited the LSC-funded legal aid organizations from participating in class action lawsuits and advocacy activities for the past twenty-five years.
Throughout COVID-19, the justice gap has grown alongside the increase of health harming legal needs, such as access to safe and affordable housing and food insecurity. Consequently, there are more legal needs than legal aid attorneys in the United States. The justice gap demonstrates the need for systemic, high-impact remedies, such as class-action lawsuits and advocacy activities. This Note argues that to support the LSC and empower legal aid attorneys to reduce the justice gap considering COVID-19, Congress must remove funding restrictions on class-action lawsuits and advocacy activities. In doing so, this Note examines the history of the justice gap and legal aid, the relationship between the justice gap and health disparities, COVID-19’s impact on the justice gap and health inequity, and the harmful effects of the LSC funding restrictions. Ultimately, this Note proposes draft legislation that removes class action and advocacy restrictions on LSC-funded legal aid organizations.
Molly C. Schmidt,
Liberating Legal Aid: Reducing COVID-19's Justice Gap and Promoting Health by Removing the Legal Services Corporation's Class Action and Advocacy Restrictions,
71 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol71/iss2/7