The Legal Services Corporation has released a new report, The Justice Gap: The Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans.
It reports on the findings of its 2022 Justice Gap Study which provides a fresh assessment of low-income Americans’ civil legal needs and the extent to which their legal needs are met. Additionally, its timing allows an examination of the justice gap in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had disproportionate effects on this population.
Some key finding reported include:
The Prevalence of Civil Legal Problems: Most low-income households have dealt with at least one civil legal problem in the past year – and many of these problems have had substantial impacts on people’s lives. 74% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem in the last year. 39% of households experienced five or more problems, with 55% stating the these problems substantilly impacted their lives.
Seeking and Receiving Legal Help: Most low-income Americans do not get any or enough legal help for their civil legal problems – and the cost of legal help stands out as an important barrier. Help is sought for only 25% of the civil legal problems that impact them substantially. 46% of those not seeking help cite cost as a reason why and 53% do not know if they could find and afford a lawyer if they needed one.
Low-income Americans approach LSC-funded organizations for help for an estimated 1.9 million civil legal problems a year. These organizations must turn away 1 out of every 2 (49%) requests they receive due to limited resources. Even when they can provide some assistance, these organizations have the resources to fully resolve only 1 out of every 2 (56%) problems. All in all, LSC-funded organizations are unable to provide any or enough legal help for an estimated 1.4 million civil legal problems (or 71% of problems) that are brought to their doors in a year.
Additional information on the extent of the Justice Gap is outlined in the full report which is available on the Legal Services Corporation website at https://justicegap.lsc.gov/