Rep. Fred Upton will keynote fundraising luncheon for Legal Aid


By Cynthia Price
Legal News

When Legal Aid of West Michigan’s tenth One Billable Hour luncheon gets underway on August 6, the keynote speaker will be a strong advocate in Washington for the provision of civil legal services to those who could not otherwise afford legal assistance – Congressman Fred Upton.

The representative, whose district covers  Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties, as well as most of Allegan County, is one of four co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Access to Civil Legal Services Caucus.

When President Donald Trump, for the second time, suggested zeroing out the budget for the Legal Services Corporation earlier this year, Rep. Upton joined his co-chairs, Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, and Democratic Reps. Joe Kennedy and Debbie Dingell (also of Michigan) in condemning that action.

Legal Services Corporation is a private non-membership non-profit, which was created in 1974 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The LSC?issue grants to organizations such as Legal Aid of Western Michigan (LAWM), which provide high-quality legal services to individuals financially unable to afford civil legal assistance.

“We’ll continue to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure this critical service is properly funded,” said Upton at the time. “LSC helps more than a million Americans, from veterans to domestic violence victims, receive a fair shot in the civil legal system.”

Ultimately, the group was successful in convincing their House colleagues to appropriate $410 million for LSC, a dollar figure which was matched in the Senate version of the budget. This represents the first time since 2011 that the House did not cut the LSC?budget.

Rep. Upton, who has served in Congress since 1987, received his journalism degree from the University of Michigan. From 1976 to 1980, Upton worked  on the congressional staff of Congressman David Stockman,  a Republican who represented the same district Upton was eventually to win,  and after that Upton had a position in the Office of Management and Budget in the Ronald Reagan administration.

He is also well-known for his advocacy of funding Great Lakes initiatives.

There is another connection between Rep. Upton and LAWM. He is a staunch supporter of Medical-Legal Partnerships, having spoken in April at a D.C. forum to consider the ways in which such partnerships can help with the opioid addiction crisis.

LAWM has a Medical-Legal Partnership with  Cherry Health.

The very successful organization, which covers all the counties in the western half of Michigan, has over 30 attorneys in five offices (Muskegon, Holland, Grand Rapids, St. Joseph, and Kalamazoo). LAWM also uses the services of a number of pro bono attorneys to maximize its impact on people of low income interaction with the legal system.

A pleasant social gathering as well, One Billable Hour will be held at noon on Aug. 6 on the third floor of the BOB, 20 Monroe N.W., Grand Rapids. To register online, visit