The Legal Literacy Project is partnering with national and local civil aid service providers and justice reform advocacy groups to address the justice gap that exists in the United States. In a 2017 report, the Legal Services Corporation defined the justice gap as “the difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs.” According a report published by the Center for American Progress in 2016, an examination of documents published by the Legal Services Corporation and the American Bar Association determined the following:
- “Congressional appropriations for the Legal Services Corporation were just $385 million in 2016.”
- “In the early 1980s, by contrast, the corporation received more than $770 million annually.”
- “Adjusted for inflation, the corporation’s budget has decreased by 300 percent since 1981, even as the number of Americans eligible for aid has grown by 50 percent.”
Without intervention, we can only expect this crisis situation to further deteriorate.
Access to the civil justice system for middle class Americans is also in a state of crisis. The Legal Services Corporation states that an individual or household’s annual income can not exceed more than 125% of the federal poverty guidelines. In 2015, an individual’s annual income could not exceed $14,713 and a household’s annual income could not exceed $30,313 in order to be eligible for legal assistance from a LSC-funded legal aid service provider.
According to the Laffey Matrix, the average hourly fee in the United States for an attorney ranged from $333 / hour for an attorney with less than two years of experience to $655 / hour for an attorney with more than thirty-one years of experience. Given the complexity of the civil justice system, the cost of a typical lawsuit can easily become an unsustainable, financial burden for even the most privileged of middle-class households. In essence, the justice gap extends to the middle class—leaving access to the civil justice system as a luxury that only the wealthy can afford.
The goal of the Legal Literacy Project is to increase access to the civil justice system and support justice reform efforts. The Legal Literary Project partners with legal aid service providers, justice reform advocacy groups and commercial legal service providers to address the justice gap via a combination of educational, advocacy and fund-raising efforts.
If your organization would like to contribute to this vital work, please contact the Legal Literacy Project.