Author Archives: Katharina Hering

Featured collection (election special): The Center for a New Democracy collection

The Center for a New Democracy, a project of the Tides Foundation, was established in 1991 to promote democratic reform through research, public education, litigation, and community organizing and training. A particular focus was on public financing of elections and fair voting reforms. The CND existed until 1996, and Donna Edwards served as its director from 1994-1996.

The collection (NEJL 064) was donated to the NEJL in 1996, and it includes case files and other materials related to state ballot initiatives in favor of campaign finance reform in the mid 1990s: Missouri Proposition A (Carver v. Nixon and Shrink v. Maupin); Minnesota (Day v. Holahan); California (Pro-Life Council PAC v. Jan Scully); Colorado (Colorado Right to LIfe Committee v. Victoria Buckley, Secretary of State); Montana (Right to Life Ass., et al. v. Robert Eddleman, County Attorney); Maine (Maine Right to Life Committee v. Federal Election Comm.); Oregon (Center to Protect Free Speech, Inc. v. Oregon); Washington, D.C. (National Black Police Assn. et.al. v. DC Board of Elections and Ethics).

In addition, the collection includes a range of reports, pamphlets, and articles (gray literature) on campaign finances in various states and in the U.S., including statewide surveys of “American Attitudes Toward Money in Politics” conducted by Bannon Research on behalf of the Center for a New Democracy in Massachusetts; Montana, Maine, Oregon, Colorado, and California.

Of particular local interest are the materials related to Initiative 41, a 1992 ballot initiative in Washington, D.C. that limited contributions to $100 for the election cycle for district-wide races and $50 per cycle for Ward races. The Center for a New Democracy and the DC community group DC ACORN, a principal supporter of the initiative, undertook a study to analyze the early impact of Initiative 41 on elections in the District. The collection also includes case files from National Black Police Association v. District of Columbia, 108 F.3d 346, 348-49 (D.C.Cir.1997). The case challenged the constitutionality of the new D.C. law as imposing “unprecedented limitations on the right of individuals and groups to contribute, and of political candidates to accept, contributions in support of campaigns for elected public office.”

A collection inventory exists, and the collection can be accessed at Georgetown Law Library’s Special Collections reading room.

Economic Opportunity Act, signed August 20, 1964

President_Johnson_08201964_UPI_NEJLFifty Years ago today, on August 20, 1964, President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law, creating the Community Action Program, Job Corps, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). A legislative history of the Economic Opportunity Act is available via HeinOnline’s Taxation and Economic Reform in America series.

1991 oral history interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton focusing on her career in legal services now available online

H_Rodham_Clinton_1991_NEJL_OHIn the videotaped interview, which was conducted by Victor Geminiani in 1991 on behalf of the National Equal Justice Library Oral History Project, Hillary Rodham Clinton recalls her education and career working for legal services from the late 1960s until the early 1980s. Ms. Rodham Clinton got involved with legal services while she was a law student at Yale, where she started volunteering for the New Haven Legal Services organization, one of the first Ford Foundation “Gray Area” model projects. After graduating in 1973, she started working full time as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund, which was founded by Marian Wright Edelman, a fellow Yale graduate whom she had met during her first months in law school. Hillary Rodham had interned for the Washington Research Project, CDF’s parent body, during law school. At CDF, she worked on education and juvenile justice law reform, allowing her to combine her “legal interests and public policy interests.”

In early 1974, Hillary Rodham accepted an offer by John Doar to work on the President Nixon impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C. along with several other young lawyers. After President Nixon’s resignation on August 8th, 1974, she followed Bill Clinton, whom she had been dating, to Arkansas, where he had started teaching at the University of Arkansas Law School in Fayetteville. She got a job at the same law school, and started teaching in the fall of 1974. The dean had asked her to teach criminal law, run a legal aid clinic, and a project providing legal assistance to prisoners in the federal and state penitentiaries. In the interview, she recalled the efforts to gain support for the school’s legal aid program from the Arkansas Bar Association, and the difficulties that legal aid programs in Arkansas faced at the time. After gaining better support for the school’s legal aid program from the Bar Association, she submitted an application to receive federal funding through the Legal Services Corporation. The application was successful, and the program eventually became the Ozark Legal Services. In 1975, she was appointed to the Arkansas State Advisory Committee for the LSC, where she worked on the state-wide expansion of legal services. President Carter appointed Mrs. Rodham Clinton to the LSC Board in 1977 (both she and her husband had worked on Carter’s campaign), and she succeeded Roger C. Cramton as Chairperson of the LSC Board in 1978 and served in this capacity until 1981.

During her tenure at the LSC, the budget increased from $96 million during the President Ford administration to over $300 million. The board oversaw the LSC under the presidents Thomas Ehrlich and Dan Bradley during the rapid expansion of legal services into many previously underserved areas, building a broad, yet solid infrastructure. Tied to the expansion, the board worked on improving access to legal services, and focused on quality, ensuring that delivery systems were the best ones available. During this period, the LSC oversaw the 1007 (h) study, which was mandated by Congress to research the access problems of particular constituency groups such as Native Americans, and initiated the Delivery Systems Study, which analyzed a variety of different systems for the delivery of legal services.

The real strength of the program has been the way it “responded to a very significant need in society,” but did so in an “effective and professional manner,” Rodham Clinton emphasized, so that it was able to withstand the political pressures the federally funded program faced throughout much of its history. She concluded the interview by expressing the hope that the program will continue to grow, and that there will be a lot of room for new people and new ideas, while legal services advocates continue to ask the hard questions: “What’s our purpose, how are we doing it, are we doing it the best way we can, are we meeting our clients’ needs?”

The original interview was recorded on VHS. The full-length digitized interview, which also includes a transcript, is part of the NEJL oral history collection.

Reflections on a Bibliography, Fifty Years Later

[Reposted from the NEJL blog]

By Elisa Minoff

“Selected Readings in Law and Poverty” is a remarkable document. bellow_titleGary  Bellow compiled the bibliography with the help of several law students in 1964, for a course he was teaching at Georgetown Law called Poverty and the Administration of Justice. At the time, Bellow was a young public interest lawyer working at the Legal Aid Agency of the District of Columbia. Bellow would later work at two other organizations funded the United Planning Organization (a community action agency in DC) and California Rural Legal Assistance (a pioneering legal services organization serving California’s farm workers)—before leaving legal practice for academia, where he helped found modern clinical legal education.

In 32 well-organized and quickly-digestible pages, the bibliography transports us back in time to those heady early days of the War on Poverty. It reminds us that what we have come to think of as the intellectual influences on the War on Poverty amount to only a sliver of the popular and scholarly writing on poverty at the time. And it gives us a taste of the ambition of practitioners like Bellow who were considering how to use the law in the fight against poverty.

midstofplenty

Ben Bagdikian. In the Midst of Plenty: The Poor in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Part I of the Bibliography, “The Elements of Poverty,” is most interesting to the general historian and reader. In it, Bellow and his fellow contributors list some of the most influential works on poverty from the early 1960s. Notably, the list does not stop at Michael Harrington’s The Other America or Ben Bagdikian’s In the Midst of Plenty. Bellow wanted to stimulate “law students in becoming more concerned with the legal problems of the poor and the urban condition,” as he wrote in the introduction. Accordingly, the selections tend to focus on the underlying causes of poverty, especially urban poverty, and the structural conditions that account for its persistence. Subsections on politics, race, class structure, and psychology include works by Saul Alinksy, Seymour Martin Lipset, Herbert Gans, Oscar Lewis, Ralph Ellison and Charles E. Silberman. These books were not low-circulation editions read by a handful of academics and poverty experts, but trade (and in some cases mass-market) paperbacks that became part of the larger public discourse about contemporary social problems.

newcomers

Oscar Handlin. The Newcomers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

As a historian of migration and social welfare, I was particularly excited to see Oscar Handlin’s The Newcomers listed among the “General Considerations.” Handlin was a prolific historian of immigration who had written the pulitzer-prize winning The Uprooted in 1951. In the late 1950s, he had turned to the study of contemporary internal migration. In The Newcomers, Handlin chronicles the experiences of Puerto Ricans and African Americans who had recently moved to New York City. When Handlin published The Newcomers, popular commentators had begun to blame migrants for the struggles of America’s inner cities, and social workers had come to believe that helping migrants “adjust” or “assimilate” to urban life was a prerequisite to solving urban poverty. Migration, in other words, was very much a part of the debate about poverty in the years leading up to Lyndon Johnson’s declaration, and Bellow’s bibliography manages to capture this too.

Considering the trends in anti-poverty research over the last several decades, the subsection on “The Psychology of Poverty” is particularly interesting. Psychology is yet another subject that has been largely missing from discussions of poverty, but was very much a part of the debates in the 1960s. Historian Alice O’Connor describes the “behavioral sciences revolution” that infused poverty research in the 1950s and 60s.  During these years, the National Institute of
Mental Health funded a number of influential studies and conferences on poverty. Bellows himself admitted to being especially concerned with the psychology of the poor. As he observed in a fascinating interview in 1964: ”It seems to me that poverty is something more than just economic deprivation. It seems to be characterized by a psychological dimension,
a feeling of hopelessness, of powerlessness, of an inability among the poor as we call them to belong to any institution or feel a part of our society.” (Bellows and others involved in the legal services movement, believed that the law could help the poor combat this feeling of
powerlessness bring them into the fold of American society.) In later years, anti-poverty activists became disenchanted with psychology as a subject that could help explain poverty’s persistence and gravity. After decades of marginalization, however, psychology is once again a part of
the discussion, as researchers have started to unveil the long-lasting repercussions of phenomena like poverty-induced toxic stress in early childhood.

children_of_sanchez

Oscar Lewis. The Children of Sanchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family. New York: Random House, 1964.

(As a footnote on the subject of psychology and poverty, Bellow includes Oscar Lewis’ book, The Children of Sanchez, in the list of works on psychology. In this book, Lewis develops his idea of a culture of poverty—another concept that has recently enjoyed something of a rebirth).

What is most notable about Part II of the bibliography, “The Legal Problems of the Poor,” is how broadly Bellow conceived these problems. Among the legal problems of the poor highlighted in the bibliography are housing issues, such as urban renewal and relocation, zoning, and landlord tenant disputes; consumer protection issues, such as loan and debt problems and purchasing on credit; criminal justice issues, such as arrest and the right to counsel; as well as, to randomly select just a few: juvenile delinquency, unemployment compensation, and discrimination. Part II, which primarily consists of law review articles, includes much more technical works than Part I, which is populated with books by academics, journalists, and activists written for a general audience. But the technicality does not suggest narrow or small mindedness. Poverty law, a la Bellow, addressed any and all issues that arose in the everyday lives of America’s poor. It was far more than the law of public assistance benefits.

Bellow’s bibliography poses something of a challenge to scholars concerned with poverty today: to think broadly, and ambitiously, about the problems of the poor, and to circulate our ideas widely so that they too may become part of the public discourse—fifty years after the War
on Poverty.

bibliography_quote1

About the author: Elisa Minoff is a political and legal historian, who will be teaching as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Florida beginning in the fall of 2014. She has  conceptualized and developed the collaborative War on Poverty bibliography, which is available as a google doc.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1K7euJxKGRVSxR_A9CTknfmKVSfWPhj66R-rSv2j3c74/edit?usp=sharing

More information about the bibliography can be found on NEJL’s War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website.

Related resources:

Selected Readings in Law and Poverty,” prepared by Gary Bellow for a seminar at Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and the Administration of Justice taught in 1964-1965.

Interview with Gary Bellow on the “Role of the Lawyer and the Problem of Poverty” by Richard D. Capparella, District Roundtable, WWDC, May 9, 1964. Gary Bellow collection, NEJL. The reformatted vinyl recording is available as a streaming mp3 file at: https://repository.library.georgetown.edu/handle/10822/707482

NEJL hosts collaborative War on Poverty Bibliography

As one of the contributions marking the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the National Equal Justice Library has launched a collaborative bibliography on the War on Poverty. The initiative grew out of a conference on Poverty Law: Cases, Teaching, and Scholarship at the Washington College of Law in October 2013. Elisa Minoff, a political and legal historian, who will be teaching as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Florida beginning in the fall of 2014, has conceptualized and developed the initial bibliography. The bibliography is designed to be an ongoing collaborative effort, and Minoff encourages others to contribute additional entries, and well as annotations to existing and new entries.

The idea was to highlight some of the most enduring scholarship on the War on Poverty and to present the most recent work being done by social scientists, legal scholars, and historians on the subject. For context, Minoff included a list of useful sources on social welfare in America before and after the War on Poverty, as well as some recent analyses of the legacies of the War on Poverty. We are planning to add a section with literature covering the most significant poverty law cases in the next weeks.

The document is available as a google doc, which is also linked from the NEJl’s War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website:

The bibliography can also be downloaded as a pdf document.

Periodic updates of the bibliography will be posted on the NEJL War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website as pdf documents.

If you would like to contribute citations and commentary, please e-mail the National Equal Justice Library Project Archivist kh781[at] law.georgetown.edu or Elisa Minoff: elisa.minoff [at] gmail.com, who can either give you permission to edit the document directly or add your suggested citations herself.

NEJL Launches Blog Marking 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

Fifty years ago, in his State of the Union address on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared an “unconditional War on Poverty in America.” To mark this year’s anniversary of the federal anti-poverty policy initiative, the National Equal Justice Library has set up a new blog, Right On. A particular focus of the blog will be on providing information about the history and critical role of the civil legal aid programs, which eventually became part of the federal anti-poverty efforts. The blog aims to be a combination of historical reflections and analyses, entries featuring relevant resources, collections, and scholarly publications, and announcements of events and programs relating to the 50th anniversary that will be held during this year and beyond.

The first blog entry by Earl Johnson, Jr. begins as series on the emergence of the legal services program as a component of the War on Poverty during 1964 and 1965.   Earl Johnson Jr. highlights that President Johnson did not mention the denial of justice to poor and low-income people in his speech, and writes that it was to prove difficult to introduce a legal services component as part of the “War on Poverty.” Further postings by Johnson will trace the slow movement to establish a viable legal services program over the course of 1964. The entries will be combined with links to selected relevant historical sources and resources from the NEJL and other collections.

Right On, the NEJL blog.

Law at the Movies Presents: Hannah Arendt, November 6th, 2013, 6-9pm

Hannah Arendt poster

Please join us for a screening of Hannah Arendt on:

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 –  6:00 – 9:00 pm

Georgetown University Law Center
McDonough Hall, Room 141
Map & Directions

The event is free and open to the public, and we will serve pizzas and beverages.

The 2012 film centers on Arendt’s response to the 1961 trial of ex-Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, which she covered for The New Yorker, and subsequently published as a book: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1st ed. 1963). Her writing on the trial became controversial for its depiction of both Eichmann and the Jewish councils.

Screening followed by a discussion of the film, led by:

  • Professor James Loeffler, 2013-2014 Dean’s Visiting Scholar, Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellow, Georgetown Law Center and Associate Professor, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

Featured Collection in Honor of World Refugee Day: Haitian Refugee/Alien Rights Collection

In honor of World Refugee Day, the National Equal Justice Library is highlighting its Haitian Refugee/Alien Rights collection.

In the summer of 1981, the U.S. government implemented a policy to detain all undocumented Haitians in the United States in detention centers in six states and in Puerto Rico. In a national class action suit filed by the Haitian Refugee Center in Miami, U.S. District Judge Eugene P. Spellman held that the governmental policy was not adopted in accordance with the requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act. The court then invalidated the detention policy [Louis, et. al. v. Nelson, Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service, et al., Case No. 81-1260-CIV-EPS (S.D. Fla. 1982)]. The approximately 2,000 Haitian refugees who were held in detention centers were then released. While the government announced it would appeal the decision, human rights and refugee rights groups – including the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Lawyers’ Committee for International Human Rights —  organized a campaign to secure pro bono legal representation for the refugees. Lawyers helped at three stages of the process: to prepare asylum requests, to prepare and conduct hearings, and to prepare appeals. The Haitian Refugee/Alien Rights collection documents this significant collective effort. Publicly available materials include newspaper articles, reports, memos, as well as pleadings, briefs and other documents that were filed with the courts. We are currently working on an inventory of the collection. For access to the collection, please contact the NEJL.

Blog entry prepared by Courtney Snelling, LL.M., and Katharina Hering.

 

Featured collection: NEJL oral histories; Gideon v. Wainwright interviews

Among the unique resources in the National Equal Justice Library are 74 oral histories of lawyers and other advocates who helped found and sustain criminal and civil legal services programs for the indigent. The goal of the oral history project is to capture the experiences of these lawyers and other advocates so that future generations can learn from these experiences. It is also designed to help inspire and guide lawyers to take on the goal of fighting for equal justice under law.

Since this is the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case, we would like to highlight the video recordings of three critical figures in the Gideon case: Abe Krash, Bruce Jacob, and Anthony Lewis. Victor Geminiani conducted each interview as part of the 1993 celebration of the 30th anniversary of the case. Videos of all interviews as well as transcripts are available on the NEJL website.

Abe Krash, a Georgetown Law faculty member, worked for Arnold, Fortas & Porter at the time, and assisted Abe Fortas in researching the issues and writing the brief for the case. In the interview, Krash recalled his extraordinary experience of working for Fortas.

Bruce Jacob argued the case on behalf of the State of Florida as a young Assistant Attorney General. In the oral history interview, Jacob recalls the “brutal” oral argument in front of the Supreme Court. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, Florida created its own public defender system, and Jacob volunteered as a special assistant public defender in Florida.

Another interview available in our collection is that of the late Anthony Lewis. He died just days after the 50th Anniversary of the Gideon’s case. Lewis covered the Gideon case as a Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times. He then went on to write the definitive history of the litigation. Gideon’s Trumpet, published in 1964 was also the basis of the film of the same name. The library screened the film during the recent Georgetown Law Library Equal Justice Film Festival. In the oral history, Lewis recalls how he became involved in the case after seeing Gideon’s petition in the Supreme Court file room on the day the Court agreed to hear the case. He also recalled the experience of meeting Clarence Gideon in the prison library of the Raiford Penitentiary.