06JusticeEvery day, millions of students across America stand, face the flag of the United States, place their right hand over their heart and recite:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It is a moving moment, a time for a statement of shared values and civic aspirations. To believe in the pledge is to acknowledge that we are one nation committed not just to the concept, but to the practice of justice for all. 

It is an elusive goal, especially when so many of our low-income families cannot access needed legal services. One of the main sources of legal assistance to our most vulnerable North Carolinians is Legal Aid of North Carolina, which has an office in Fayetteville serving Cumberland, Harnett and Sampson counties. LANC provides vital assistance to people in family law cases involving custody disputes and domestic violence protective orders. It assists in housing issues, protecting tenants, military families and veterans focusing on federal legal rights and resources, and the elderly and disabled in a wide range of civil matters. Most recently, LANC was at the forefront of assisting low-income families and individuals devastated by Hurricane Matthew. Natural disasters affect everyone in their path and the poor are no exception. Competent, timely and accessible legal assistance is never more important than in a time of emergency. Along with the pro bono efforts of private attorneys, the state and local bar associations, LANC is a vital organization to communities across North Carolina, including Fayetteville and
Cumberland County. 

LANC is largely funded through a grant from the Legal Services Corporation, a nonprofit organization established in 1974 and funded primarily through the federal government. Unfortunately, President Trump’s budget will eliminate federal funding of the Legal Services Corporation. If the budget is enacted, this would cripple efforts to provide basic legal services to vulnerable citizens. The American Bar Association has joined with a coalition of corporations, law school deans and attorneys across America to protect funding for legal aid. The website HelpLegalAid.org has been set up to promote the legal aid for low-income citizens and to provide a way to voice support in the face of a serious threat of elimination. 

Justice for all cannot be a mere aspiration recited in a pledge. Support for LANC and legal aid organizations helps make the concept a reality for all the people. 

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