The OPIA Blog

Editorials on legal services and the federal budget

In two separate editorials this week, both the Washington Post and the New York Times published critiques of what the most recent house financing bill does (or continues to not do) for legal services.

In a New York Times editorial, the author comments on Obama’s budget as well as the DOJ’s financing bill which recently won approval in the house. Although the author applauds the Obama’s administration’s effort to roll back some of the cuts to legal services the Republicans put in place in 1994, they also warn that the house bill is not going far enough for legal services. The bill does not roll back two rules that inhibit the delivery of legal services. One rule that will continue to be in effect “prevents legal services clients from participating in class action lawsuits that can be an efficient way to obtain broad relief for problems affecting a large number of people.” The other rule “extends all the restrictions on federal money to the substantial money that legal services providers receive from other sources, like private foundations and state and local government.”

The Washington post editorial goes further, calling the restrictions illegitimate, “While some limitations on the use of tax dollars may be warranted, there is no legitimate reason for federal restrictions on how local legal aid groups use privately raised funds or money they receive from state or local governments. The Obama administration, which supports the lifting of these restrictions, estimates that roughly $490 million in private and non-federal funds that find their way to local legal aid providers are “tied up” and subject to these federal limitations.”

The bill has not yet become law as the Senate still has to vote on it.