A number of delivery models for legal aid have emerged. In a "staff attorney" model, lawyers are employed on salary solely to provide legal assistance to qualifying low-income clients, similar to staff doctors in a public hospital. In a "judicare" model, private lawyers and law firms are paid to handle cases from eligible clients alongside cases from fee-paying clients, much like doctors are paid to handle Medicare patients in the U.S. The "community legal clinic" model comprises non-profit clinics serving a particular community through a broad range of legal services (e.g. representation, education, law reform) and provided by both lawyers and non-lawyers, similar to community health clinics.
Although legal services and assistance for the poor appeared in the US as early as the 1870 , for the most part, they remained piecemeal and underfunded until well into the 20th century.
In the early 1960s a new model for legal services emerged. Foundations, particularly the Ford Foundation, began to fund legal services programs located in multi-service social agencies, based on a philosophy that legal services should be a component of an overall anti-poverty effort.
In a series of cases, the US Supreme Court has ruled that American indigents do have a right to counsel, but only in criminal cases. See Gideon v. Wainwright. A few states (like California) also guarantee the right to counsel in "quasi-criminal" cases like paternity actions and involuntary terminations of parental rights. The federal government and some states have offices of public defenders who assist indigent defendants, while other states have systems for outsourcing the work to private lawyers.
Meanwhile, legal aid for civil cases is currently provided by a diverse hodgepodge of public interest law firms and community legal clinics, who often have "legal aid" or "legal services" in their names. Such firms may impose income and resource ceilings as well as restrictions on the types of cases they will take, because there are always too many potential clients and not enough money to go around. Common types of cases include: denial or deprivation of government benefits, evictions, domestic violence, immigration status, and discrimination. Some legal aid organizations serve as outside counsel to small nonprofit organizations that lack in-house counsel. Funding usually comes from charities, private donors, the federal government (see below on LSC) and some local and state governments. Most typical legal aid work involves counseling, informal negotiation, and appearances in administrative hearings, as opposed to formal litigation in the courts. However, the discovery of severe or recurring injustice with a large number of victims will sometimes justify the cost of large-scale impact litigation. Education and law reform activities are also sometimes undertaken.
In 1974, Congress created the highly controversial Legal Services Corporation to provide federal funding for legal aid services. LSC's funding has fluctuated dramatically over the past three decades depending upon which political parties were in control of Congress and the White House. For example, LSC suffered staggering funding cuts under former President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s.
Legal aid organizations that take LSC money tend to have more staff and services and can help more clients, but must also conform to strict government regulations that require careful timekeeping and prohibit lobbying and class actions. Many legal aid organizations refuse to take LSC money, and can continue to file class actions and directly lobby legislatures on behalf of the poor.
However, even with supplemental funding from LSC, the total amount of legal aid available for civil cases is still grossly inadequate. According to LSC's widely released 2005 report "Documenting the Justice Gap in America: The Current Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-Income Americans", all legal aid offices nationwide, LSC-funded or not, are together able to meet only about 20 percent of the estimated legal needs of low-income people in the United States.
The problem of chronic underfunding of legal aid traps the lower middle class in a catch-22: too rich to qualify for legal aid, too poor to pay an attorney in private practice. To remedy the ongoing shortage of legal aid services, some commentators have suggested that mandatory pro bono obligations ought to be required of all lawyers, just as physicians working in emergency rooms are required to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay. However, most such proposals have been successfully fought off by bar associations. A notable exception is the Orange County Bar Association in Orlando, Florida, which requires all bar members to participate in its Legal Aid Society, by either serving in a pro-bono capacity or donating a fee in lieu of service. Even where manditory pro-bono exists, however, the funding for Legal Aid remains insufficient to provide assistance to a majority of those in need.
Legal aid programs for the poor are generally opposed by conservatives in the U.S., and supported by liberals and moderates. Fiscal conservatives argue that if asked to select between $500 in cash and $500 in legal services, most poor persons would take the cash. Social conservatives argue that legal aid programs serve only a very limited, left-wing version of the public interest. The liberal counterargument is that from a moral or philosophical perspective, legal aid preserves the ideal of "equal access for all" to the judicial system. A rather Machiavellian argument is that legal aid upholds the rule of law and stabilizes society as a whole, by enabling the poor to regularly seek redress of their grievances through formal legal processes; otherwise, it is likely that the poor will resort to highly destructive self-help measures like rioting..
In Scotland, legal aid is in principle available for all civil actions in the Court of Session and Sheriff Court with the significant exception of actions of defamation. It is also available for some statutory tribunals, such as the Immigration Appeal Adjudicator and the Social Security Commissioners.There is a separate system of criminal legal aid, and legal aid is also available for legal advice.
Legal aid is means-tested, and in practice only available to less than one-quarter of the population. It is administered by the Scottish Legal Aid Board. Legal Aid in Scotland is also available in Criminal Cases, where more than 90% of Summary applications are granted. An Interests of Justice test is applied, as well as a means test. In Solemn case (Jury Trials) The Court assesses Legal Aid.
In England and Wales, legal aid is administered by the Legal Services Commission, and is available for most criminal cases, and many types of civil cases with exceptions including libel, most personal injury cases (which are now dealt with under Conditional Fee Agreements, a species of contingency fee) and cases associated with the running of a business. Family cases are also often covered. Depending on the type of case, legal aid may or may not be means tested.
Although the European Courts have recently ruled that a lack of legal-aid-libel may be a breach of the right to a fair trial (following the McLibel case), it is still unclear how this will affect UK libel trials.
Criminal legal aid is generally provided through private firms of solicitors and barristers in private practice. There are a limited number of public defenders. Civil legal aid is provided through solicitors and barristers in private practice but also non-lawyers working in law centres and not-for-profit advice agencies.
The provision of legal aid is governed by the Access to Justice Act 1999 and supplimentry legislation.
Australia has a federal system of Government comprising federal, state and territory jurisdictions. The Australian (Commonwealth) and State and Territory governments are each responsible for the provision of legal aid for matters arising under their laws.
Legal aid for both Commonwealth and State matters is primarily delivered through State and Territory legal aid commissions (LACs), which are independent statutory agencies established under State and Territory legislation. The Australian Government funds the provision of legal aid for Commonwealth family, civil and criminal law matters under agreements with State and Territory governments and LACs. The majority of Commonwealth matters fall within the family law jurisdiction.
Legal aid commissions use a mixed model to deliver legal representation services. A grant of assistance legal representation may be assigned to either a salaried in house lawyer or referred to a private legal practitioner. The mixed model is particularly advantageous for providing services to clients in regional areas and in cases where a conflict of interest means the same lawyer cannot represent both parties.
The Australian Government and most State and Territory Governments also fund community legal centres, which are independent, non-profit organisations which provide referral, advice and assistance to people with legal problems. Additionally, the Australian Government funds financial assistance for legal services under certain statutory schemes and legal services for Indigenous Australians.
By way of history, the Australian Government took its first major step towards a national system of legal aid when it established the Legal Services Bureaux in 1942. However, there was a move in the late 1970s to service delivery by the States and Territories (not the federal arm of government). In 1977, the Australian Government enacted the Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission Act 1977 (LAC Act) which established cooperative arrangements between the Australian Government and State and Territory governments under which legal aid would be provided by independent legal aid commissions to be established under State and Territory legislation. The process of establishing the LACs took a number of years. It commenced in 1976 with the establishment of the Legal Aid Commission of Western Australia and ended in 1990 with the establishment of the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania. The cooperative arrangements that were established by the LAC Act provided for Commonwealth and State and Territory legal aid funding agreements, which began in 1987.
In July 1997, the Australian Government changed its arrangements to directly fund legal aid services for Commonwealth law matters. Under this arrangement the States and Territories fund assistance in respect of their own laws.
Legal aid in Ontario is administered by Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). The LAO provides funding to more than one million Ontario residents who need help with their legal problems. Legal Aid is available to low income individuals and disadvantaged communities for a variety of legal problems, including criminal matters, family disputes, immigration and refugee hearings and poverty law issues such as basic employment rights, worker's compensation, landlord/tenant disputes, disability support and family benefits payments.
Legal Aid in Ontario is provided in a number of ways: the largest is a legal aid certificate program. The program provides low income people with certificates for a set number of hours of service to be provided by a private lawyer (i.e. a 'judicare' model). When the lawyer has completed their work, they bill Legal Aid Ontario for the services they provided. The certificate system is limited by the fact that many lawyers do not accept certificates because the hourly rates are too low. Lawyers are also wary of accepting cases because a certificate may not provide enough hours for the lawyer to provide adequate representation.
Ontario also has a community legal clinic system. Ontario’s 80 Community legal clinics are staffed by lawyers, community legal workers, and sometimes other professionals or law students. Each legal clinic is run by a volunteer board of directors with members from the community. Legal clinics provide information, representation, and advice on various kinds of legal issues, including social assistance, housing, refugee and immigration law, employment law, human rights, workers’ compensation, and the Canada Pension Plan. Many legal clinics also produce community legal education materials, offer workshops and information sessions, and engage in other community development activities including campaigns to change the law. Specialty legal clinics serve a particular community or focus on a specific area of law. Unlike general service legal clinics, most specialty legal clinics are not limited to serving a particular geographic area.
The clinic system is seen by many to be a preferred model of legal aid delivery. Services are provided at the community level and clients therefore benefit from the agency's connections to other services, e.g. health care. Legal problems are seen in their social context and issues of broader societal concern can be identified by clients and staff. The model is also financially beneficial in that resources are invested in the development of long term stable service located in and informed by the communities they serve. This way, resources can be devoted to legal work that is most beneficial to the community.
Ontario also provides immediate legal aid service to those appearing in court via duty counsel. Duty counsel are salaried lawyers who will represent low income people in criminal or family court. There is also a duty counsel program which provides representation to low income tenants appearing before the Ontario Rental Housing Tribunal.
Funding for Legal Aid in Ontario has been frozen for many years. While the Ontario Liberal Government recently announced a 19 million increase in funding over the next three years, this will do little to remedy the serious and chronic underfunding of the system.
The lack of funding means that legal aid lawyers are paid half as much as other government funded lawyers and must do their work with a severe lack of resources. The result is that many new lawyers with massive student debt cannot consider legal aid careers, other lawyers leave the system frustrated at the lack of recognition for their work, and those hiring new lawyers in the system find it hard to find well qualified lawyers who will even consider taking legal aid jobs. This undermines the system's quality of service and sustainability.
There is currently significant pressure on the Ontario Government to increase funding to the Legal Aid system to ensure that the quality of service remains high and the program as a whole is sustainable.
This Mother's Day Might Be the Last One for Years for Which I Might Receive Flowers or Cards from My Son. on Future Mother's Days He Will Not Treat Me to Brunch or Take Me to Dinner. What I Might Get Is a Collect Call from the Federal Prison Where the Department of Justice Will Try to Put Him for Many Years
May 11, 2007; Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Sarah Paul For The Register-Guard This Mother's Day might be the last one for years for which I might...