By 1922, there were 33 legal aid offices in the United States. The vast majority were totally dependent on local charitable donations. Iowa Legal Aid is part of a nationwide network of organizations dedicated to providing legal assistance to low-income individuals, elderly Iowans, persons with disabilities, and those living in institutions.
Legal Aid programs in Iowa date back to 1951, when the Legal Aid Society of Polk County was founded through the efforts of the community foundation , the local bar association and Drake University to provide services to low-income residents of Polk County.
In 1965, Congress passed an act establishing the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). In Iowa, four new legal aid societies were organized under OEO auspices. They were located in Dubuque, Iowa City, Council Bluffs-Omaha and Waterloo. Each office, like the Legal Aid Society of Polk County, was restricted to representing low-income people who resided in the county where the office was located.
LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION P.L. 93-355 Established 1974 The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is in Washington, D.C. Governed by 11-member Board of Directors, who are nominated by US President. Receives annual appropriations from Congress. Statutory responsibility: to support “high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford adequate legal counsel.”
LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION P.L. 93-355 Established 1974 Not politically partisan. Corporate form encourages creative problem-solving. Requires careful evaluation of all funded programs for efficiency and efficacy. Founded on the Congressional judgment: that “equal access to the system of justice in our Nation” must be provided to all individuals, regardless of their financial status.
Created in 1977 (then Legal Services Corporation of Iowa) by merger of existing legal services organizations in Dubuque, Waterloo, Iowa City, and Council Bluffs.
Between 1977 and 1979, new offices opened in Sioux City, Des Moines, Mason City, Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa, Spencer, Creston, Fort Dodge, Decorah and Burlington For the first time, low-income Iowans in all corners of the state had access to a legal services office.
A severe funding decrease in 1981 caused the closure of offices in Creston, Burlington, Decorah, Fort Dodge and Spencer. These reductions forced further consolidation of services and staff reductions.
Funding cuts and restrictions imposed by Congress in 1994 lead Iowa Legal Aid to form a partnership with the Iowa Attorney General’s office. The Iowa legislature has helped fund legal services in Iowa since 1996.
The Iowa State Bar Association and individual lawyers provide support, too. Many other community groups and individuals have stepped up to help Iowa’s most vulnerable residents.
Legal Services Corporation of Iowa and the Legal Aid Society of Polk County merged in 2003 to form Iowa Legal Aid . Iowa Legal Aid serves all 99 counties in the state.
For over 25 years, Iowa Legal Aid has provided critical legal assistance to low-income Iowans who have nowhere else to turn.