>Legal Aid Facing Cutbacks


Single mothers, low-income immigrants, and senior citizens are some of the types of clients who legal aid groups serve with litigation obstacles.

Advocates say that the demand for free legal services increases in economic downturns.

But hundreds of legal aid organizations nationwide are facing losing a significant amount of their operating money, which comes in part from interest on money that lawyers hold in trust for their clients. All 50 states have some form of a law that earmarks such money for legal services for the poor. Nationally, it added up to about $370 million last year. Advocates say that figure could drop by as much as 50 percent in 2009, victim of both the economic meltdown and low interest rates.

Susan Erlichman, president of national association of IOALTA programs (interest on lawyers trust accounts): “We’ve never had this type of decline.”

In Ohio, revenue from IOLTA is expected to drop 50 percent this year to $11 million from $22 million in 2007. Projections for 2009 look even grimmer with incoming revenue dropping to $4 million. In Washington state, revenue for grants is expected to drop from $9 million in 2008 to $6 million next year. Texas originally projected $28 million for 2007, but interest rate cuts dropped the figure to $20 million.

Legal aid firms also face decreases in government and private grants. In Seattle, King County further cut a grant for the NWIRP that paid for their domestic violence program.

Erlichman: “some legal aid firms have already begun cutting workers, and case files are piling up.”

Full Article and Source:
Economic woes threaten legal aid nationwide

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