Legal services | St. Louis Public Radio

Legal services

Legal Services Corporation president James Sandman speaks to students and faculty at Saint Louis University law school on March 1, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2014, 1.8 million people appeared in New York courts without a lawyer. Included in that figure were 96 percent of eviction cases, 95 percent of child support cases, and two-thirds of the state's foreclosure cases that year.

The numbers are part of a broader "justice gap" in the civil courts, Legal Services Corporation president Jim Sandman told an audience at Saint Louis University law school on Tuesday. Declining federal money for legal aid programs, and a drop in other funding sources, mean the United States is no longer living up to a founding principle.

Norman S. London
Provided by the family

Norm London, as he was wont to introduce himself, was a criminal attorney who represented the powerful and the powerless with equal vigor. For 40 years, he defended some of the area’s most famous and infamous citizens before taking his formidable reputation to the federal Public Defender’s Office in St. Louis.

“The legal representation in our office is on par with anything you could go out and buy,” said Lee T. Lawless, who succeeded Mr. London as federal defender. “His name being associated with this office got that message across.”

James Cridland via Flickr

When people of means encounter injustice or are accused of crimes, they hire an attorney to represent them in a court of law. But for people living in poverty, their choices are more limited.

If it’s a criminal case, a defendant will be assigned a public defender. If it’s a civil case, the individual can apply for aid with their local branch of legal services. But despite these options, low-income people are at a disadvantage in the American justice system, say St. Louis attorneys who serve the poor.