3 Hoosiers joining ABA advocacy effort

Three Indiana lawyers will be part of an American Bar Association delegation headed to Washington, D.C., next week to connect with lawmakers and discuss key legal issues.

As part of its annual trip to Capitol Hill, American Bar Association members from all 50 states will be spending April 25-27 meeting with representatives and senators and their staff to talk about funding for legal aid and helping homeless veterans. Bloomington attorney Joseph O’Connor of Bunger & Robertson will be joining fellow Hoosiers Jim Dimos of the ABA and attorney Abigail Kuzma in making the trip.

The ABA delegation will arrive in Washington, D.C., a little over a month since the Trump Administration proposed eliminating all funding to the Legal Services Corp. Past presidents have also advocated for removing legal aid from the federal budget but Congress has always provided funding, although the appropriation has been reduced over the years and not kept pace with inflation.

In fiscal year 2016, Congress appropriated $352 million for the LSC, of which nearly $7 million went to Indiana Legal Services. The agency has submitted a requested bump to $467 million for fiscal year.

O’Connor plans to emphasize to the congressional members that the federal government should continue supporting the Legal Services Corp.  

 “I hope that they learn that they want to provide justice for as many Americans as possible,” O’Connor said. “That’s why the corporation needs to be funded.”  

In addition, the ABA lawyers will also push for H.R. 1993, introduced by Ohio Democrat Joyce Beatty. The bill directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to form partnerships with public and private organizations to provide legal services for homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless who need help with issues related to housing, family law, income support and criminal defense.

 No action has been taken since H.R. 1993 was introduced into the lower chamber on April 6, 2017. It has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

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