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History

Background

Civil legal aid provides access to justice—a fundamental American value, reflected in the first line of our Constitution and in the closing words of our Pledge of Allegiance.

SALA’s Mission is:

"to provide quality legal services to people who would not otherwise have equal access to justice, in ways which affirm their individual and collective dignity, integrity, and power."

SALA has stayed true to its Mission even though the organization has changed throughout the years.

"Legal Aid" was first provided in Pima County in 1951 by the Legal Aid Society of the Pima County Bar Association. Spouses of local attorneys interviewed applicants for assistance and cases were handled by the attorneys on a volunteer basis.

In 1968, the program first received federal funding from the Legal Services Office of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). At that time, legal aid had offices throughout Tucson in an effort to be close to the community. Most offices were staffed by an attorney and a receptionist.

In 1974, following passage of the Legal Services Corporation Act (LSC), SALA received its first LSC grant for Pima County. Staff size increased and by 1975 community offices were consolidated in the downtown area. The program’s service area expanded in 1976 with the addition of Cochise and Santa Cruz Counties. In 1978 and 1979, Graham, Greenlee, Navajo and Apache Counties were added. Further expansion occurred in 2000 as LSC began its process of consolidating the programs it funded. Pinal and Gila Counties were added to the service area served by SALA.

SALA’s first Native American office was established in 1979. The Four Rivers Indian Legal Services office in Sacaton was fully staffed by early 1980 serving Gila River, Salt River, Ak-Chin and Ft. McDowell Indian communities. Shortly thereafter, SALA received funding to provide services to the Pascua Yaqui community in Pima County. In 1994, at the request of LSC, SALA assumed responsibility for the Fort Apache Reservation grant and established its office in Whiteriver. The Tohono O’odham Legal Services Office in Sells was added to SALA’s Native American Service area in 2001.

At the present time, SALA's service area covers over 33,000 square miles including nine (9) counties and eleven (11) of Arizona's twenty-one (21) Indian reservations. SALA has responsibility for five counties in southern Arizona (Pima, Pinal, Gila, Cochise and Santa Cruz), three of which share a common border with Mexico; and the entire eastern portion of Arizona (Navajo, Apache, Graham and Greenlee Counties), excluding the Hopi and Navajo Indian reservations.

SALA provides access to legal help for people to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. SALA provides free access to legal information through easy-to-understand forms, legal assistance, representation, and self-help centers to enable people to know their rights. SALA offers legal information brochures, pamphlets and education classes free to the public regardless of income.