Civil legal aid providers got a boost Tuesday with the announcement of the formation of a Civil Legal Services Caucus in the U.S. Congress.
Indiana Rep. Susan Brooks has joined Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III in launching the group which will focus on expanding access to legal representation for low-income families. The caucus will bring together House members who have a shared interest in and want to advocate for civil legal aid.
In making the announcement, Brooks, a former prosecutor, noted many indigent families, veterans and domestic violence victims are often forced to navigate the judicial system alone because they cannot afford a lawyer. They can then face enormous burdens in court and bring a result that devastates families and puts them at greater risk to descend further into poverty.
“This caucus will seek to change that, making sure that when civil disputes are brought to our judicial system, those involved, regardless of financial means, have access to appropriate legal resources and representation,” Brooks, an Indianapolis Republican, said in a statement.
Jon Laramore, executive director of Indiana Legal Services, said he was thrilled Brooks is taking a leadership role on this issue. He sees the caucus as educating legislators about the work of civil legal aid providers and how many people are helped nationally.
“The establishment of a caucus can only be good news for continued financial support to civil legal aid,” Laramore said. “It shows that the support for our work is bipartisan and has been for many years.”
Brooks and Kennedy have sent a letter to their congressional colleagues, urging them to join the caucus. They noted the high number of families who are eligible for legal aid but are turned away annually because the programs lack resources. In addition, they emphasized that most of the cases handled by civil aid attorneys in Indiana and Massachusetts involved families and housing.