Letter sent to Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray on 18 April 2 011, signed by 190 parishioners

Dear Senators,

In our country, "liberty and justice for all" and "equal justice under the law" are too often assumed to be fundamental truths when in fact they are proposition s unrealized for too many. Delivery of justice depends on many factors, but non e is more crucial than knowledge of the law. Lacking that knowledge, those of u s with adequate financial resources hire professional legal representation; the needy, on the other hand, rely on legal aid groups for representation. Unfortun ately, that representation, though never in adequate supply, is increasingly una vailable because of recession-reduced funding from state, local, and individual contributors, and because federal support for legal aid for the poor seems to be in decline as well.

As you may know, in late February the U.S. House of Representatives voted to cut the FY2011 budget for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) $70 million below it s FY2010 budget allocation. "...LSC is an independent nonprofit corporation tha t receives an annual appropriation to promote equal access to justice and to pro vide for high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and famil ies." LSC routes federal legal-aid dollars to 136 different legal aid non-profi ts serving over 900 communities across the country. Attorneys in those groups s peak in court rooms and administrative law chambers for those who are unable to speak for themselves on civil matters involving domestic abuse, housing and empl oyment, foreclosures, etc. Even without the House cuts, federal government supp ort for legal services for the poor amounts to less than $10 per person per year . The size of the proposed House reductions would mean that an estimated 160,00 0 fewer low-income people would be provided legal representation this year. Age ncies that directly provide the legal services to the indigent would lose 18% of their federal funding.

As members of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Seattle trying to live out Catholic Social Teaching and Christ's requirement of preference for the poor, w e feel compelled to advocate for essential services for the poor, and legal repr esentation is an important one. As you engage in federal budget negotiations in the coming few weeks, we ask you to remember the needs of the "least of our bre thren" in those talks and resist the proposed funding cuts for the Legal Service s Corporation. "Equal justice under the law" should not ring hollow for any Am erican. We can't have a healthy or decent society if low-income families are de nied a voice in the courts and their needs go unheard.

Parish members who weren't able to sign in person are encouraged to download a printable copy of this letter addressed to Senator Cantwell or Senator Murray (or preferably both!) to sign and send.

OLL Justice & Peace Committee's Correspondence with US Catholic Bishops Concerning the War In Iraq

Letters to Elected Officials