Skip to main content

Civil Legal Aid for Indigent Litigants

WHEREAS, members of the NAACP, in keeping with the charge of our founders, stand against all forms of injustice; and

WHEREAS, the courts and administrative tribunals provide an avenue for access to justice to those seeking legal redress; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. legal system is adversarial in nature and requires specialized experience, graduate level education and training for even lawyers to navigate the court and administrative law systems; and

WHEREAS, many non-lawyers lack the knowledge training and experience to achieve success in the courts and administrative legal proceedings; and

WHEREAS, many low-income people cannot afford to pay for an attorney to secure their rights in the courts and before administrative tribunals; and

WHEREAS, inadequate government funding has been provided to give civil legal aid to poor and low-income persons; and

WHEREAS, the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) research estimates show that at least 80 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans are not being met; and

WHEREAS, LSC estimates show that there is approximately one legal aid attorney serving every 6,861 low income persons; and

WHEREAS, the problem of access to civil legal representation affects low-income and poor African-Americans for whom the 2000 poverty rate was 22.5%; and

WHEREAS, in 2001 poverty rates for African-American individuals and black families with children were about three times higher than the rate for whites; and

WHEREAS, the American Bar Association (ABA) Task Force on Access to Civil Justice has recognized that basic human needs such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health and child custody are critical areas involving fundamental and important issues warranting use of an attorney to permit parties to have a fair hearing; and

WHEREAS, access to basic human needs such as shelter, sustenance, safety, health and child custody are particularly critical areas for low-income and poor African-Americans who have been historically excluded from economic opportunities and subjected to racial discrimination; and

WHEREAS, low-income and poor African-Americans should not be denied access to legal representation in adversarial proceedings to secure basic human needs because of their economic status; now

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP urge states and the federal government to provide adequate funding to provide legal counsel for low-income persons in adversarial proceedings where basic human needs are at stake.