Funding for Legal Services

The economic downturn has had a devastating impact on communities living in poverty in the District. According to an October 2010 Washington Post report, more than one in four District children—and more than one in three residents who reside east of the Anacostia River—now live in poverty. Moreover, more than one in ten District residents—over 60,000 people—now have incomes below half the poverty line, which is just under $11,000 for a family of four. And due to ongoing revenue challenges, the District's safety net falls far short of meeting the need for services.

For families reeling from the impact of the recession, access to the civil justice system can mean the difference between stability and crisis. Legal services lawyers protect individuals from wrongful foreclosures and evictions, help domestic violence victims and their children escape violent homes, protect low-wage workers from exploitative employment practices, ensure that children have access to health care, and help indigent families access essential food and income security programs. Unfortunately, economic conditions have significantly undermined the capacity of the legal services network to meet the vital legal needs of indigent residents, just as the need for those services has soared.

Each year, the Commission works intensively to infuse public and private resources into the fragile legal services network. This includes leading the effort to secure and preserve an annual public appropriation from the D.C. Council to support civil legal services (the Access to Justice Program) and increasing private giving through the Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign.


Collage of an African-American family, a little girl using a computer with her grandparents' help, and a homeless person.