Tech giants join effort to save legal services for the poor from Trump budget ax

033117blog legal services corp
Legal Service Corp.

The biggest names in technology are among 185 companies urging Congress to ignore a line item in the Trump Administration’s proposed budget that would entirely defund the Legal Services Corporation, a non-profit organization that has provided civil legal assistance to the poor since 1974.

The letter to Congress reads:

The undersigned 185 leaders of corporate legal departments across the country write to urge you to support the preservation of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) and provide funding at a level of $450 million for FY 2018, which would be consistent with the appropriation received in FY2010, adjusted for inflation. As the cornerstone of equal justice in America, LSC creates a level playing field for the many lower and moderate- income families who cannot afford a lawyer. By upholding the fundamental American promise of liberty and justice for all, the minimal investment in LSC generates a significant positive return for business and for the health of individuals and communities across the nation.

Among those signing the letter are the top legal executives at Cisco, Juniper Networks, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, Google, Salesforce.com, Symantec, Verizon, Comcast, Yahoo, LinkedIn, NetApp, Adobe, Facebook and Twitter.

Cisco general counsel Mark Chandler writes in a blog post:  

Last year, dozens of Cisco lawyers donated their time and sweat to working on pro bono cases. … Our efforts, in many cities around the country, were only possible because of the structure and logistics provided by LSC-funded organizations, which allow our individual engagement to scale. …

The integrity of our country and its legal system depends on making sure all people can have a day in court. For that reason, I hope you too will ask your Congressional representatives to support funding for the Legal Services Corporation.

Neither the letter to Congress nor Chandler’s blog post mentions Trump or even states explicitly that their rallying behind the Legal Services Corp. is made necessary by the administration’s stated budget priorities. And while they do emphasize the impact the LSC’s loss would have on the poor, they do not make note, as this article in the Huffington Post does, that the impact would fall disproportionately on the citizens of those states that helped Trump win the White House.

And one last thing these attorneys are far too politically savvy to mention: The Legal Services Corp. has long been near and dear to the heart of Hillary Clinton, who served as its chairman in the 1970s and is credited with having tripled its funding and hence its ability to level the legal playing field. Her work with the LSC was a part of her campaign narrative and she attended the organization’s 40th anniversary convention in 2014.

It’s probably just a coincidence. Probably.

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