Legal Services in New Jersey embraces the vision of full access to essential civil legal aid for all economically disadvantaged people who cannot secure a lawyer on their own. This belief in the importance of legal assistance to indigent people stems from an underlying concern with fairness, and a conviction that important legal needs of individuals should be addressed.
The Legal Services program must maintain a principal focus on meeting these basic needs even as it strives to pursue actions that have import and sweep beyond the individual parties in specific legal cases. It must prioritize legal representation that will help rebuild impoverished, deteriorating communities, or that address recurrent problems that otherwise would continue to occur in the lives of low-income people.
New Jersey Legal Services’ core mission statement is:
Legal Services seeks to secure equal
substantive and procedural justice
for all economically disadvantaged people.
To achieve this mission:
- Legal Services must function as a concerted, coherent, closely coordinated legal assistance delivery system—the hub of a broader legal assistance delivery network and partnership, to ensure full access to equal justice for all economically disadvantaged people.
- Legal Services must develop the resources necessary to achieve this vision, and must target those resources, and use them as efficiently and effectively as possible, to achieve the greatest measure of equal justice.
- Legal Services must incorporate the views of its consumers and key partners, as appropriate to their experience, stake, and role, in making major decisions about how to design and implement its system of services.
THE HISTORY OF LEGAL SERVICES IN NEW JERSEY
The first legal aid societies began to emerge nationally after the Civil War. Growth of such efforts in New Jersey did not emerge for another 50 years. In general, bar association-affiliated legal aid societies were open for limited hours, staffed by volunteers. In some of the largest cities, private funds supported some paid staff. Typical services were limited to advice. Rarely, and only in a few of the largest cities, were some court appearances made.
Over the course of the next 50 years, Legal Services in New Jersey, coordinated by LSNJ, was transformed from a predominantly voluntary, part-time, advice and very limited representation model to a system that was principally publicly funded, staffed full-time, and geared to providing full representation to the conclusion of a matter.
In 2016, LSNJ reached its 50 year milestone anniversary. It marked this special occasion by unveiling a new website intended to preserve the rich history of the program and to honor those who have made extraordinary achievements in advancing equal justice. The purpose of this New Jersey Equal Justice Library and Archive (NJEJLA) is to chronicle New Jersey’s arc of justice for use by researchers, students, future advocates, and members of the public. As its collections increase, the NJEJLA will constitute a trove of material on the state’s continuous journey toward achieving greater justice for all people, with a special focus on those who have been the targets of discrimination, who are disadvantaged, or who are otherwise members of vulnerable populations. For more detailed information about the history of Legal Services in New Jersey, a listing of milepost cases, and the major figures honored for their contributions to equal justice, visit www.njejla.org.
A message from LSNJ’s President and General Counsel, Melville D. Miller, Jr.
Unavailability of legal representation denies equal justice. When the issue is as fundamental as housing, or food, or health care, or keeping your children, the consequence is devastation. Without true justice, New Jerseyans living in poverty suffer great harm, every day, every hour. And that harm in turn damages each of us, and all of us together—our children, our families, our neighbors, and our collective humanity. It is long past time for this to end. We must balance the scales!
For those living on the edge, legal representation can mean the difference between job stability and unemployment, retaining or losing custody of children, keeping a roof overhead or becoming homeless. It means food on the table, critical health care, even life and death.
- For nearly all civil legal problems, there is no right to a lawyer.
- The 34% of New Jerseyans who live in true poverty are deprived of at least one of seven essential areas of basic human need.
- This year, one-third of those in true poverty will have at least one civil legal problem for which they need a lawyer.
- For 94% of those problems, they will have no lawyer.
Legal Services Cases By Type
- Key Elements of the Statewide System
- Offices and a presence in every county: 22 offices statewide
- 2.5 million cases and 9 million clients over 54 years
- Helped reform and shape every major area of law affecting people in poverty
- Millions more assisted each year through legal information via self-help websites and in-person presentations.
The justice gap continues for New Jersey residents living in poverty. Your gift helps close that gap to ensure that no one is denied their right to justice in a civil legal case because they cannot afford an attorney.
|Eligibility||Eligibility: Income. LSNWJ's Basic Needs Program serves households whose income falls at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level.|
Legal / Advocacy
Last Updated: 04/15/20