The nonprofit organization that funds legal aid programs nationwide is calling on high-profile and influential leaders from various American industries to raise public awareness of the current crisis in legal aid, and University of St. Thomas School of Law Dean Robert Vischer was asked to be a part of the effort.

The newly formed Leaders Council, established by the nonprofit Legal Services Corporation, is made up of more than 40 notable individuals, including public figures such as former Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron, author John Grisham, University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Viacom Vice Chair Shari Redstone, and Microsoft Corporation President and CEO Brad Smith. Vischer joins deans from the law schools at Fordham University, Duke University, Stanford, University of Chicago, Yale, University of Wisconsin and Georgetown on the Council.

Kenneth C. Frazier, CEO of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., and Harriet Miers, a partner at Locke Lord and former White House Counsel to President George W. Bush, will serve as co-chairs of the Leaders Council.

“The issue of equal access to justice is close to our hearts at the University of St. Thomas, where our mission compels us—above all else—to advance the common good,” Dr. Julie Sullivan, president of St. Thomas, said. “Our School of Law community has long acted on this cause locally through its nationally recognized legal clinics, which allow students to provide pro bono legal service to those in need; and regionally, through the Access to Justice Scholars program, which places lawyers in small towns and rural settings. We are proud and honored that Dean Vischer and St. Thomas are now a part of the national effort to ensure that justice is accessible to all.”

LSC Chairman John G. Levi said the organization will benefit from the strategic thinking, innovative ideas and leadership of council members.

“We are thrilled that these distinguished Americans recognize the crisis that exists in the accessibility of our civil justice system for low-income Americans and through the Council want to be better informed and in their own ways help LSC narrow our country’s ‘justice gap,’” Levi said.

Legal aid groups currently are forced to turn away at least 50 percent of people seeking help, leaving millions of Americans unable to obtain legal assistance when it comes to critical civil matters, from evictions to child-custody cases.

“Continued progress in expanding meaningful access to our justice system for low-income individuals and families is essential to fulfilling America’s promise of ‘justice for all,’” Miers said. “The strength of our country’s justice system and our people’s faith in that system requires progress.”

The founding principle of LSC is that supporting civil legal aid is critical to ensuring equal access to justice. By working with leaders from the private sector, LSC hopes to spread this message to an audience beyond the legal aid community. The Leaders Council also will support private fundraising and bring greater attention to the work of LSC.

The Legal Services Corporation is an independent organization established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. A full list of the more than 40 notable individuals joining the Leaders Council is available online at https://lsc40.lsc.gov/leaders-council/.

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