April 09, 2010
Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow, John Levi ’72 LL.M. ’73, and four other presidential appointees to the Legal Services Corporation’s Board of Directors were sworn in to office on April 7. At the LSC’s inaugural Board meeting, the members elected Levi, a partner in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin, as chairman, and Minow as vice chair.
The oath of office was administered by Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy ’61 during a ceremony at The Eisenhower Executive Office Building that was attended by family members and friends of the appointees.
In addition to Justice Kennedy, speakers at the swearing-in ceremony included LSC Board Chairman Levi; Vice Chair Minow; outgoing LSC Board Chairman Frank B. Strickland; LSC President Victor M. Fortuno; Daniel Meltzer ’75, principal deputy White House counsel to the President; and Harold Hongju Koh ’80, legal adviser at the State Department.
In his remarks, Levi said, “Today, LSC funding, now over $400 million annually, is an essential part of our country’s effort to provide civil legal aid for the poor, and we take our Board positions at a time when our nation's poor desperately need that aid.”
Requests for help with foreclosures, unemployment benefits, and consumer issues are rising LSC programs, Levi said. But “even as the need for LSC services increases, the funding resources necessary to make it happen are dwindling,” he said, adding that “we will need to find ways to make our dollars go further while seeking even greater financial support.”
Said Minow in her remarks (PDF): “Pursuing access to justice for our disadvantaged and vulnerable neighbors holds the promise of direct and immediate relief of suffering and enduring fortification of the laws that make us all free and secure…When people forfeit their rights simply due to absence of counsel, we all suffer.”
Minow and Levi were nominated to serve on the board in August 2009. They were both confirmed by the Senate on March 19, 2010. Gloria Valencia-Weber ’86, who was nominated to serve on the board last year, and others await their confirmation.
Established by Congress in 1974, the Legal Services Corporation is the single largest provider of civil legal aid for the poor in the nation. Nearly 51 million people—including 17.6 million children—are eligible for LSC-funded services. LSC-funded programs close nearly one million cases per year nationwide and provide other legal assistance to more than five million people. The clients served are at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty level threshold, an income of $27,563 a year for a family of four.