American Bar Association members are on Capitol Hill Wednesday and Thursday to advocate that lawmakers fund legal aid services and continue the student loan forgiveness program.
As part of ABA Day 2018, legal professionals from 48 states are in Washington, D.C., talking to members of Congress and their staffs. From Indiana, Joe Skeel, executive director of the Indiana State Bar Association, and Joseph Spurgeon, partner at Kightlinger & Gray LLP in New Albany, were scheduled to participate in the two-day event, according to the ABA.
The ABA team will speak about the importance of funding the Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding for legal aid to nearly 1.7 million low-income individuals each year. In March, Congress appropriated $410 million to LSC, an increase from the $385 million earmarked for the nonprofit in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.
However, the Trump Administration has again proposed defunding the organization in its 2019 budget.
Also, the ABA members will be talking about the need to preserve the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The ABA opposes efforts to discontinue the program, such as through the PROSPER Act pending in Congress, and believes there should be some government incentive to help individuals who choose careers in public service.
In addition to advocating on Capitol Hill, the ABA members will honor four members of Congress with the Congressional Justice Award to recognize their leadership on issues critically important to the legal profession and the ABA.
The 2018 award winners are:
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. The ABA honors Cornyn for his efforts to improve the American justice system, particularly for his leadership in securing funding for the Legal Services Corporation. He also is being honored for his commitment to ensuring access to justice for domestic violence and trafficking survivors and for his co-sponsorship of the Veterans Treatment Courts Improvement Act of 2017.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-California. Feinstein is being honored for her support of LSC, her decades-long effort to enact sensible gun safety legislation and her commitment to ensuring that members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have an opportunity to consider the ABA’s peer assessments of the professional qualifications of federal judicial nominees before their confirmation hearings.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania. The ABA honors Fitzpatrick for his efforts to increase LSC funding and his leadership in efforts to increase access to the civil justice system. Since joining Congress in 2016, he has been a staunch supporter of increased funding for LSC and has led the efforts to increase Republican support for it. In 2017, he joined with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) to sponsor the first-ever bipartisan amendment to increase LSC appropriations.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California. Pelosi has spent more than 30 years in the House of Representatives serving as a powerful voice for equal justice for all and championing issues of importance to the ABA including transgender rights, marriage equality, pay equity, and immigration reform. This past year, she has strongly advocated for a path to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented persons who were brought to this country as children and have grown up here. She has also been a leader in opposing legislation that would restrict access to the civil justice system.