Indiana Civil Legal Needs Study and Legal Aid System Scan
Indiana University Public Policy Institute, March 2019 • ISSUE 19-C01
108 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2019
Date Written: April 12, 2019
In 2017, the Indiana Coalition for Court Access entered into a partnership with Indiana University to conduct a statewide legal needs study. The IU Center for Law, Society & Culture and the IU Public Policy Institute submit this final report to the CCA.
We designed this comprehensive study of legal needs to provide a relevant, reliable source of information with which the CCA, policymakers, and legal aid providers can make strategic decisions about where, when, and how to allocate resources for the effective, efficient delivery of civil legal services. We also designed this project to generate data and information that these organizations can use in their efforts to increase the visibility of legal aid, develop support for legal aid work, and encourage resource development.
Need for legal aid in Indiana is wide, deep, and urgent. To be eligible for legal assistance from Indiana’s system of civil legal aid, a person’s income must often fall below 125 percent of the federal poverty level. A household income at 125 percent of the FPL corresponds to $31,375 per year for a family of four. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, an estimated 212,479 Hoosier households live below this line. That equates to 1,156,910 low-income Hoosiers who are potentially eligible for legal aid. These Hoosiers routinely encounter adversities when accessing justice and regularly fail to receive the legal help necessary to address basic civil legal needs and significant legal problems.
When left unaddressed, these problems interact with other social, environmental, and economic circumstances to undermine human wellbeing and the fulfillment of essential needs, including access to medical services and healthcare; maintenance of safe, habitable housing; the receipt of benefits, such as disability and Social Security payments; support for family law matters, including child support and child custody actions; protection from abusive relationships; and relief from financial exploitation.
Broadly, this civil legal needs study includes three goals:
1. Assessing the unmet legal needs of Indiana’s low-income population.
2. Examining the current system of legal aid delivery to determine underserved communities’ access to legal aid services.
3. Reviewing legal services programs to determine ways to improve resource allocation among and collaboration within Indiana’s system of civil legal aid.
Keywords: Access to justice, Legal needs study, Empirical legal methods
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