Corporate Advocacy on Behalf of Access to Justice

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Federal Support of Public Defense

On March 18, 2022, the 59th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainwright decision, general counsel from 37 large corporations sent a letter urging Congress to pass H.R. 1408, the Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act. If passed, the EQUAL Defense Act would enable public defenders to maintain manageable workloads and support pay parity between public defenders and prosecutors. The law would create a $250 million annual grant program to help public defender systems develop and implement evidence-based workload limits and incentivize pay parity with prosecutors. To learn more about what the bill would do, download this overview of the bill or watch highlights from a 2021 NLADA conference panel that describes the private sector's historical support of public defense, the needs of the defense community, and what this bill would do. To learn more about the needs of the public defense community, watch this April 2022 webinar: The Broken Promise of the Sixth Amendment: Fixing the Right to Counsel in America

LSC’s Annual Congressional Appropriations

Since 2017, starting under the leadership of John Schultz, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal and Administrative Officer, and Corporate Secretary of Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Immediate Past Chair of NLADA’s CAC and with the ongoing support of the CAC’s current chair Max Laun, Vice President and General Counsel of Arconic (retired), General Counsel from U.S. corporations have joined together in a letter to members of Congress in support of the preservation and expansion of federal funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in the annual Congressional appropriations process.

Civil legal aid ensures fairness for all in the justice system regardless of how much money a person has by providing assistance in legal matters that have the potential to devastate lives. Civil legal aid programs keep families in their homes, assist veterans returning to our communities, secure safety for survivors of domestic violence, and provide a wide array of other critical services. Securing fair outcomes for legal aid clients strengthens American business by providing workers with the stability they need to be productive and boosts local economies by helping families who are struggling to get back on their feet.

At least 12.5 percent of all LSC grants are devoted to creating an infrastructure to enable and support pro bono efforts by private attorneys.  This minimal investment in LSC – just 0.00001 percent of the federal budget – enables programs to leverage private resources to significantly expand the impact of federal dollars. Corporate and private lawyers contribute millions of hours of pro bono assistance to legal aid programs each year, but they would be unable to do so if these programs are forced to close down. Congress can protect this exemplar public-private partnership and secure equal access to justice for all by fully funding LSC.

COVID-19 Supplemental Appropriations

In July 2020, members of NLADA’s CAC delivered a letter to the Senate in support of federal assistance for public defenders to meet the challenges of COVID-19.  This effort complemented letters submitted in March and April 2020 by NLADA with the CAC leadership to the Senate and House Leadership and Appropriations Committees urging the appropriations of emergency supplemental funding for the LSC to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. This critical effort helped secure an additional $50 million in federal funding for LSC’s response to the pandemic with ongoing advocacy urging additional dollars to LSC in future supplemental appropriations.

Media Highlights

Hugo Guzman, 161 General Counsel Sign Letter Backing Biden's Legal Aid Budget, Counsel (May 19, 2022).

Phillip Bantz, General Counsel for Major Companies Back Push to Bolster Public Defender Systems, Counsel (Mar. 18, 2022) 

Sue Reisinger, 37 GCs Urge Congress to Pass Law Funding Public Defenders, Law360 Pulse (Mar. 18, 2022) 

Suzette Parmley, General Counsels Urge Congress to Boost Funding for Legal Services Corporation, (June 25, 2020).

Melissa Heelan Stanzione, General Counsel Request More Funding for Legal Services Corp., Bloomberg Law (Apr. 29, 2019).

Sara Randazzo, Law Blog: General Counsel Join Fight to Save Legal Services Corp., The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 28, 2017).