An abysmal gap in access to justice for thousands of low and moderate-income and vulnerable Americans persists. Organizations across the country are working diligently to close this gap, yet funding for legal services has never kept pace with the need. The American Bar Endowment (ABE), an independent, not-for-profit public charity, provides annual grants to help close this gap. Often solving a legal problem can also resolve other social service challenges such as homelessness, unjust incarceration, family violence, unemployment, food insecurity, access to healthcare, restoration of rights, family stability, and so many more.
Stephen N. Zack, the ABE’s President, said, “The entire ABE Board of Directors is elated to have surpassed an exciting grantmaking milestone of over $300 million, and our deepest thanks go out to the ABE insureds who made it possible.” This year in the 2020 grant cycle, the American Bar Endowment has awarded over $7 million in grants to the American Bar Foundation (ABF) and the ABA Fund for Justice and Education (FJE), each receiving almost $3.4 million for vital law-related legal service, education, and research programs.
“Over the past 64 years of grantmaking and over $300 million in funding, the ABE is proud to be part of efforts across the country to close the justice gap so well documented by, for example, ABF researcher Becky Sandefur. In addition to funding efforts focused on increasing access to justice, the ABE grants have helped enhance understanding of the law in action and improve the administration of justice. Supported in part by ABE grants, the stellar research of the ABF and the public service initiatives of the FJE identify and address the urgent legal needs and help ensure the legal rights of individuals,” Joanne Martin, Executive Director of the ABE, said.
Ms. Martin added, “Because of the generous donations of thousands of ABA lawyer members who contribute available annual dividends* from their ABE-sponsored insurance plans, the ABE is able to make these annual grants. With the financial support of our insureds, we fund a diverse array of organizations and projects, including research on the effects of parental incarceration on children, programs that ensure due process to immigrants and asylum seekers, and training for and mobilization of pro bono lawyers who have heeded the call to serve our most vulnerable citizens such as children, the elderly, and veterans.”
Additionally, for the fourth consecutive year, the ABE awarded Opportunity Grants of almost $275,000 for innovative, boots-on-the-ground projects across the country that focus on enhancing access to legal assistance in underserved communities. The 2020 Opportunity Grant recipients are:
Advocates for Immigrants Rights (TN, MS, AR, LA)
Pro Bono Net (for an OH-based project)
“We’ve been so pleased and encouraged by how a modest Opportunity Grant can mean so much to a grassroots organization and produce so much impact. With such a substantial unmet need for legal services, we are so proud to be partnering with these impressive organizations to address the critical needs of their communities,” said Steven Zack.