We believe every New Mexican should have an equal access to justice, regardless of economic status.
At times, low-income people must rely on the justice system to maintain basic necessities, or to resolve conflicts that affect their income and living conditions, such as landlord-tenant disputes, problems with domestic violence, foreclosures, child support and custody issues, or consumer fraud. Yet people living in poverty generally cannot afford to hire an attorney, and they find it difficult to successfully navigate the court system alone. The state’s system of civil legal aid for the poor exists to help these families access free or low-cost legal services.
Despite the importance of these services, New Mexico’s civil legal aid system is facing unprecedented challenges. As it stands now, more than half of the people who approach New Mexico Legal Aid for assistance are turned away for lack of resources.
The Center aims to increase the number of low-income New Mexicans who receive civil legal assistance, with special emphasis on people of color. One of our main focus areas has been securing additional resources for New Mexico’s direct service providers. For many years, we have led a coalition of civil legal service providers to leverage more funding for legal assistance to the poor. Since 2007, our coalition efforts have resulted in more than $16 million in state funding being appropriated for this purpose.
In 2005, we shepherd the passage of a law that establishes the Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP) for public service attorneys, a program intended to help lawyers pay off law school loans while working lower-paying public interest jobs. This program continues to foster the next generation of civil legal service attorneys.
The Center will continue working to ensure that New Mexico’s civil legal service providers have adequate resources, are well-informed, and are meeting the compelling legal needs of our low-income families. We will provide legal service attorneys with training, information, and technical assistance, and will support efforts to increase state funding for civil legal aid. We will also explore opportunities to establish a legal impact and policy organization that would exclusively represent Native Americans in New Mexico.
If you need legal help, please visit our How to Find Legal Help page for more information.