U-M football coach Jim Harbaugh joins Talk Justice podcast

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University of Michigan Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh and Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board Chairman John Levi discuss LSC’s new Justice Gap report on the latest episode of LSC's “Talk Justice” podcast released today. LSC President Ron Flagg hosts the conversation which examines the staggering difference between the civil legal needs of low-income Americans and the resources available to meet those needs.  

Coach Harbaugh joined members of Congress and other national leaders to mark the release of the report at a public event in Washington two weeks ago. Harbaugh, a member of LSC’s Leaders Council, has long supported efforts to expand access to justice and spoke at the release of LSC’s 2017 Justice Gap Report. 

“There’s a lot of worthy causes but I think that everybody realizes that this is one,” Harbaugh says. “When it comes to our legal system, there needs to be access, there needs to be fairness, and it can be done.” 

The report found that the justice gap remains wide: 92% of civil legal problems that impacted low-income Americans substantially did not receive any or enough legal help, and 74% of low-income households experienced at least one civil legal problem in the past year. 

LSC awards grants to 132 legal aid organizations across the country. Levi explains that often even people who qualify for free legal aid, meaning their income is less than 125% of the federal poverty level, still can’t access services because the organizations are chronically under-resourced. According to the new report, legal aid offices had to turn away half of eligible problems that were brought to their doors. 

“It’s hard to sit and listen to these statistics because of the story that they tell of those that are being left out,” says Levi. “But I think of our grantees all across the country and how hard it is for them—how hard they’re working every day—and in the last couple years with COVID, how many people they’re having to turn away.” 

These and other barriers to equal access to justice have eroded the public’s trust in the civil justice system. The Justice Gap report found that only 28% of low-income Americans believed they would be treated fairly in the civil justice system. 

Harbaugh says he has seen many people struggle with accessing justice, both in his community growing up and now in some families of the players he coaches. He strongly supports the work that LSC does to promote access to justice and recognizes that the funding for civil legal aid has not kept up with the need of low-income Americans. 

“We need to act; our lawmakers need to act. Our leaders need to come together as a team—there’s no finger pointing, it [doesn’t matter] whose idea it is—this is a bipartisan pillar of our country: fairness and access to equal justice,” Harbaugh says.   

Talk?Justice episodes are available?online and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular?podcast apps.


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