The Legal Aid Justice Center is a Virginia-based nonprofit that provides legal services for low-income defendants and advocates for left-of-center legal policies. The Center’s headquarters is in Charlottesville with offices in Falls Church, Richmond, and Petersburg.
The Center was founded in 1967 as the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Society with federal funding from the Legal Services Corporation, a government-funded legal fund for low-income defendants. Over the following decades, Legal Aid Justice Center attracted more government funding from federal, county, and city governments. In 1998, the Center spun off much of its legal assistance operations into Piedmont Legal Services which later merged with the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, which is largely funded by the Legal Services Corporation.
Since the late 1990s, the Center has transitioned its programs to mix legal services with political advocacy. Its programs support more liberal immigration policies, increased leniency in the criminal justice system, increased school funding, new civil rights laws, and other policies. Despite engaging in political advocacy, the Center still receives over $2 million in annual funding from federal, county, and city governments.
In 1967, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Legal Aid Society was established by a group of lawyers and law students to provide pro bono legal services to local low-income individuals. From the start, the Society was dependent upon federal funding with its lawyers providing free services due to funding from the Legal Services Corporation. In 1970, the Society’s Lawyers began to receive funding from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity. 
In 1978, the Society expanded its services to rural areas around Albemarle County. In 1982, the city government of Charlottesville and the county government of Albemarle both began subsidizing the Society. 
In 1996, Congressional Republicans cut the budget of the Legal Services Corporation by more than one third and added new regulatory requirements for the disbursement of federal funds to nonprofits.  In response, two years later, the Society formed Piedmont Legal Services, an independent corporation with an overlapping board which could better comply with regulatory requirements to receive federal funds. 
In 2001, the Society merged with Southside Virginia Legal Services to form the Legal Aid Justice Center. In response to federal requests to consolidate regional grant recipients, Piedmont Legal Services merged into the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society with federally funded offices in three cities. Today, the Legal Aid Justice Center and Central Virginia Legal Aid Society work closely together, with the latter handling the bulk of the legal work and the former focusing more on political advocacy. 
The Legal Aid Justice Center maintains five “programs” as of July 2020: civil rights and racial justice, economic justice, justchildren, immigrant advocacy, and COVID-19 advocacy. Each program both provides pro bono legal services and engages in political activism through community organization on behalf of left-of-center and left-wing policy goals. The Center also works with numerous other left-of-center nonprofits towards these ends.  The Center has expanded its programs considerably over the past few years, with only economic justice, immigrant advocacy, and justchildren existing in 2016. 
Civil Rights and Racial Justice
The Center advocates for increased leniency in criminal punishment and pro-defendant changes to the administration of criminal justice, including reducing bail amounts, reducing criminal fines, and eliminating numerous Virginia criminal laws. According to the program’s webpage, civil rights and racial justice has always been the Center’s primary purpose. 
The Center advocates for increased left-wing economic regulations, including tighter oversight on banks, increasing the Virginia minimum wage, increasing worker safety regulations, and restricting short-term lenders. 
One of the Center’s biggest targets has been the ability of Virginia’s courts to suspend driver’s licenses in response to the failure to pay court fines. The Center filed a suit against the government in 2016 challenging the practice. In 2018, the Center won the case and the courts ordered the cessation of the policy. The Center continued legislative advocacy until on July 1, 2020, a law took effect that banned the suspension of driver’s licenses due to unpaid fines. 
The Center advocates for the Virginia state government to increase funding for schools and teacher pay with a special emphasis on equalizing expenditure per-pupil across regions. The Center has partnered with numerous labor-union-aligned advocacy groups on this advocacy effort, inlcuding the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, New Virginia Majority, Virginia Educators United, and Virginia Excels. 
The Center advocates for more liberal immigration policies and better treatment of current legal and illegal immigrants. Partner organizations for these advocacy efforts include the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, Virginia New Majority, and Virginia AFL-CIO. 
The Center blames the extent and severity of the COVID-19 outbreak on the supposed insufficiency of the social safety net instituted by the government. The Center advocates for “aggressive” government action to protect low-income individuals and racial minorities, including ceasing all housing evictions, all medical copays and billing of uninsured individuals, and all tax collection; indefinitely extending welfare benefits; and taking enhanced investigations into potential incidents of racial discrimination in schools. 
Nonprofit partners for the Center’s COVID-19 policy recommendations include Southerners on New Ground, ACLU Fairfax, ACLU Virginia, Richmond Community Bail Fund, the Charlottesville and Richmond chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, Virginia Organizing, Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia, and Richmond Teachers for Social Justice. 
The Center has also been an advocate for indefinitely continuing lockdowns. In a statement arguing against the partial reopening of Virginia businesses in May, the Center called the policy “cruel” due to the disparate impact on racial minorities caused by “systematic racial inequalities.” The letter also claimed that the courts will be “swarmed with landlords” trying to evict tenants and that the reopening was motivated by the government’s desire to maintain Virginia’s status as the best state for business in a CNBC study. 
On April 20, the Center sent a letter to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice demanding immediate action to protect incarcerated youths from COVID-19 after two of the Center’s clients tested positive. 
Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs
In 2014, the Legal Aid Justice Center and Art 180 created Performing Statistics, a program which promotes art among young people involved in the juvenile system to reduce and improve interactions with police. In 2018, the Legal Aid Justice Center gave a grant to “assist in social justice projects” worth $321,539 (about 6% of its total expenditure for the year) to Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, a left-of-center fiscal sponsor for nonprofits which promote climate alarmism and radical-left views of America’s justice system and culture.  The following year, Performing Statistics became an independent organization fiscally sponsored by Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs. 
From 2015 to 2019, the Legal Aid Justice Center received a substantial increase in funding, from $7,717,960 to $9,331,581. Each year, the Center receives about $2.2 million in government funding from:
- City of Charlottesville
- County of Albemarle
- County of Arlington
- County of Dinwiddie
- County of Fairfax
- County of Fluvanna
- County of New Kent
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Though the Center received funding from the Legal Services Corporation for decades, after splitting much of its legal services with Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, the Center no longer receives funding from LSC. 
The Center also receives funding from numerous left-of-center nonprofits. In 2019, it received $1,806,418 in grants from organizations including Borealis Philanthropy, Pew Charitable Trusts, and Public Welfare Foundation. The Center also gets institutional support from the Southern Poverty Law Center.