Cuts to Legal Aid Services, Crime Lab, & Court Programs

Mar 7, 2014

Amy Johnson, Executive Director Arkansas Access to Justice Commission

Four consecutive months of revenue from court fees and fines falling below projections are causing a 25 percent reduction in funding, from that revenue source, for a number of court-related entities.

The Arkansas Access to Justice Commission coordinates legal services for low-income Arkansans and is among several agencies facing budget constraints this month. The commission’s director Amy Johnson says cuts will affect some of the most vulnerable.

“Legal Aid of Arkansas and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services are the state’s two non-profit civil legal aid providers and these cuts are going to affect their ability to serve folks for civil legal issues involving basic human needs: protection from domestic violence, safe and habitable housing, those types of issues,” said Johnson.

Although cuts are likely to be temporary Johnson calls into question the funding structure of legal aid services in the state.

“The other unfortunate thing about this I think is that relying on court fees and fines for revenue to support the operations of the court system, administration of justice and access to legal representation, I think is problematic because those disproportionately effect low-income folks,” said Johnson.

Arkansas Access to Justice Commission works to coordinate civil legal aid for more than 15,000 clients a year. The organization states that even before these cuts more than half of those who qualified for free services had to be turned away.

Both of the state’s law schools, the State Police, the state Crime Laboratory, and other court programs are also facing the challenges of reduced funding.