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Ruger joins law deans in support of Legal Services Corporation

Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger is one of 166 law school deans from around the country who have signed a letter addressed to the Chairs of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as the Chairs of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, & Related Agencies, urging them to maintain funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest funder of civil legal aid in the country. Penn Law alumnus James Sandman L’76 is the current president of the LSC.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would cut all funding for the LSC, which provides legal representation to millions of low-income Americans who could not otherwise afford it.

“As law school deans, we see the impact of LSC funds, not just in direct service by legal organizations, but through the partnerships that the funds facilitate,” the deans’ letter states. “Many of our schools operate clinics and externships that collaborate with organizations that rely on LSC funds. The funds have a positive ripple effect across our communities and into future generations of attorneys, as our students work alongside experienced attorneys dedicated to serving the less fortunate.”

“When low-income people need lawyers, it’s for life or death matters — keeping their homes, keeping their children, accessing life-saving health benefits,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs and Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center. “The important work of these organizations on the lives of low-income people cannot be overstated.”

“The proposed elimination of the Legal Services Corporation strikes at the very fabric of our justice system,” said Louis S. Rulli, Practice Professor of Law and Director of Penn Law’s Clinical Programs. “In both urban and rural communities, LSC funds legal aid programs which provide free legal help to low-income families and vulnerable individuals who are in crisis and struggling to meet basic human needs. LSC has proven to be a cost-effective program which has rightfully enjoyed bipartisan support since its creation during the Nixon Administration. Without legal aid, our nation’s commitment to equal justice under law will be a hollow promise.”

While LSC funds helped nearly 1.9 million people in 2015, the deans note in their letter, studies estimate that 80 percent of the civil legal needs of the eligible populations are still not being met.