The D.C. Bar’s Litigation Section jumped into the debate over the District’s budget today, issuing a statement opposing Mayor Adrian Fenty’s proposed cuts to the civil legal services community. The cuts would reduce the money set aside for the legal services community by $1.8 million — a 50 percent reduction from the funding approved by the D.C. Council this spring.
The cuts would affect grants issued by the D.C. Council to legal service organizations to hire lawyers to serve indigent clients and also the D.C. Bar Foundation’s loan repayment program for recent law school graduates who go into public interest work.
David Fauvre, an associate at Arnold & Porter and co-chair of the Litigation Section, said in the statement, “This proposed cut would result in a significant reduction in the number of attorneys providing civil legal services in the District at a time when the need for those services is increasing.” The section’s other co-chair Moxila Upadhyaya, an associate at Venable, added “Cutting this funding to civil legal services in half may leave many District residents without vital representation advocating to keep them housed, healthy and safe.”
The section’s 10-member steering committee voted unanimously to issue the public statement, with one abstention.
In an interview, Fauvre said sections occasionally weigh in on public debates when the issue involved will affect the section’s members. “As the Litigation Section, we felt that cutting the funding for folks to get representation in D.C. was a very important issue for us,” he said, adding that the economic downturn has driven up the demand for legal service in the Washington area.
The statement was sent to the offices of D.C. Council members. The council will vote on this year’s budget on Friday.