Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Continuation Until 1996 of LSC Funded Support

By Alan Houseman

[Part 12 of the series on the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Support: p. 5]

This is the fifth in a series of blogs that are focusing on the development, growth and demise of the federally funded support infrastructure: national support centers; state support; training; technical assistance; and information sharing and dissemination. This blog will explore the time between 1985 and 1996 and the ultimate Congressional action that eliminated funding for support. The first blog focused on the development of that unique system and ended with the inclusion of the “Green Amendment” in the LSC Act. The second and third blogs discussed what LSC did between 1975 and 1981 to preserve, expand and strengthen the support system brought over from the OEO legal services program. The fourth discussed the efforts by the LSC Boards appointed by President Reagan to defund or limit support.


In 1985, the support structure consisted of 17 national support centers, state support centers or units in each state, five Regional Training Centers, six computer assisted legal research projects, and the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, which published the Clearinghouse Review.

Between 1985 and 1996, the support structure came under continuing but unsuccessful attack from critics of legal services and some members of the Board of LSC. These critics saw the support structure as the engine that drove legal service into class actions, major litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy and the glue that held together a coordinated, cohesive advocacy network to challenge the status quo. In September of 1987, the LSC Board voted to request that Congress not provide funds for national and state support, regional training centers, computer assisted legal research projects and the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services. Congress rejected this proposal, and, indeed, became very irritated at LSC for making such a proposal.

To protect support as well as other components of the legal services delivery system under attack (e.g., migrant and Native American programs), Congress, led by Senator Warren Rudman and beginning with the 1987 appropriation for LSC, specifically earmarked funding for support components. For example, Public Law 99-500, (October 18, 1986), the 1987 appropriation of $305,500,000 for LSC provided: $623,964 for regional training centers; $7,528,218 for national support; $7,842,866 for state support; $865,000 for the Clearinghouse; and $510,444 for computer assisted legal research grants. This earmarking continued until the 1996 appropriation.

Although LSC attempted to defund several national support centers (e.g., Migrant Legal Action Program, National Center for Youth Law), the only successful defunding was of National Social Science & Law Project, located in Washington, D.C. All of the other 16 remained funded until 1996. Similarly no state support center was defunded, although LSC unsuccessfully attempted to defund the Western Center on Law and Poverty because of its advocacy activities around a California election proposition on tax limits (Proposition 13).

As noted in the last blog on support, numerous LSC studies attempted to examine support throughout the 1980s, but none were successful in eliminating support. Two non-LSC studies were done on state support. The Management Project of NLADA commissioned a paper on state support completed by Erica Black Grubb in November of 1983, The Role of State Support in Delivering High Quality, Cost-Effective Legal Services to Low Income Clients. The National Organization of State Support Units did a subsequent study in 1991 entitled The Challenge of Leadership: Providing State Support Services in the 1990s. A shorter version of the report was included in an article by Daniel M. Taubman, “The Role of State Support Centers in the 1990s and Beyond,” 25 Clearinghouse Rev. 75 (Special Issue 1992).    

During this period, NLADA organized a number of conferences for state support staff to help state support build on successful initiatives among the various states and improve state level advocacy. Regional training centers met periodically to improve training and learn from each other. National support centers gathered at national NLADA conferences to share experiences and successful activities. While LSC remained hostile or indifferent until the Clinton board took over in 1993, the support entities themselves, working with NLADA, continued to focus on support and to build cohesive state and national networks of advocates.

In 1994, the Delivery Working Group (of the Project Advisory Group and NLADA) completed a comprehensive review of support that was presented to the LSC Board for its consideration just after the 1994 Congressional elections. That study set out eight core functions of state and national support:

  1. Advocacy: State and national support centers conduct advocacy directly as sole or co-counsel at state and national levels and are the focal points for such advocacy efforts because the two primary judicial, legislative, and administrative systems are centered at the state and federal levels.
  2. Coordination of and assistance to advocacy of others: Providing help to others in the Legal Services system who are doing advocacy, rather than doing it directly.
  3.  Management, administrative and organizational assistance, coordination, and development: Providing a variety of help to Legal Services programs and their administrative staff at both state (where there are at least two field programs distinct from the state support center) and national levels.
  4. Information dissemination to and sharing with staff, case handlers, and board members: state and national support centers are primary information distribution points.
  5.  Information dissemination to and sharing with the low-income client-eligible community: A central role of all Legal Services programs – and therefore of support – is to provide information to client-eligible people so that they may be relatively more empowered and may seek, wherever possible, to help themselves. The nature of support’s involvement in this activity will vary according to the pattern of involvement of other Legal Services programs and non-LSC entities for the particular substantive area, client population, or state.
  6. Conducting and assisting necessary training
  7.  Resource development: At both the state and national levels, support can play an important part in helping develop new sources of revenue for Legal Services.
  8. Preserving and strengthening Legal Services as an institution: National and state support, given their leadership responsibilities, can collectively be responsible for advancing Legal Services’ reputation and stature, preserving its independence, maintaining its integrity, and insuring its strength.

The LSC Board was to begin consideration of what to do to expand support in 1995, but by then there was a new Congress and a new political environment. The 1995 Appropriation for LSC (Pub. L. 103-317, August5 26, 1994) increased LSC funding to $415,000,000 and continued the earmarked funding for the various categories of support. This was the last time there would be annualized support funding through LSC.

With the 1994 congressional elections, LSC suffered a dramatic reversal of political fortune. Conservatives included the elimination of LSC in the infamous “Contract for America.” In much the same way as the Reagan Administration in the early 1980s, the leadership of the new Congress, under House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), committed itself to the elimination of LSC and ending federal funding for legal services. The House leadership sought to replace LSC with a system of limited block grants to the states that would severely restrict the kind of services for which the funds could be used. The House of Representatives adopted a budget plan that assumed that LSC’s funding would be cut by one-third for FY 1996, another third in FY 1997, and completely eliminated thereafter. Opponents of legal services dubbed this funding plan “the glide path to elimination.”

Despite the efforts of the House leadership, a bipartisan majority in the Congress, led by Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), remained committed to maintaining a federally funded legal services program. Nevertheless, key congressional decision-makers, led by Congressmen Bill McCollum (R-FL) and Charles Stenholm (D-TX), determined that major “reforms” in the delivery system would be required if the program was to survive. The 1996 Appropriation for LSC (Pub. L. 104-134, April 26, 1996) incorporated these reforms. Grants were to be awarded through a system of competition, rather than through presumptive refunding of current recipients. Funding was to be distributed on a strict, census-based formula, eliminating any LSC discretion over funding amounts. More fundamentally, the Congressional majority was determined to redefine the role of federally funded legal services by refocusing legal services advocacy away from law reform, lobbying, policy advocacy, and impact litigation and toward basic representation of individual clients. Congress set out to accomplish this goal by restricting the broad range of activities that programs had engaged in since the early days of OEO, many of which had been mandated in the past. These restrictions are described in the earlier blog on Restrictions. Most significantly, Congress eliminated LSC funding for national and state support centers, the National Clearinghouse which published the Clearinghouse Review, regional training centers and computer assisted legal research centers.

Alan Houseman is the former executive director of CLASP and emeritus senior fellow of the organization, and the president of the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library. The opinions presented in this blog series are his own.



The Support System’s Fight for Survival

By Alan Houseman

[Part 11 of the series on the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Support: p. 4]

This is the fourth in a series of blogs that are focusing on the development, growth and demise of the federally funded support infrastructure: national support centers; state support; training; technical assistance; and information sharing and dissemination. This blog will explore the efforts by the LSC Boards appointed by President Reagan to defund or limit support. The first blog focused on the development of that unique system and ended with the inclusion of the “Green Amendment” in the LSC Act. The second and third blogs discussed what LSC did between 1975 and 1981 to preserve, expand and strengthen the support system brought over from the OEO legal services program.

lsc_logoAt the beginning of 1982, the support structure consisted of 17 national support centers; state support programs, joint ventures, or units of basic programs in most states; 5 regional training centers; a management assistance project at NLADA; a substantive training project at the Western Center for Law and Poverty; six computer-assisted legal research (CALR) projects; and the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services in Chicago. The Office of Program Support and the Research Institute within LSC were no longer in existence.

In 1982, the newly appointed Board of LSC (all of whom were recess appointments and not confirmed by Congress) began to focus on the LSC funded support structure.   Support was examined by a board committee on grants and contracts. The chairman of the committee, Clarence McKee, prepared a report which recommended a number of contract conditions for national support centers that would have required the centers to consider merger or consolidation, to eliminate any overlap among centers as to substantive law and client population, to stop the filing of amicus briefs without prior approval by the president or board, to stop training, to provide recommendations and options regarding alternative mechanisms and vehicles for the provision of support, and to limit direct delivery of legal services to eligible clients.

In 1982, the board, after considerable controversy, ordered a special study on support and authorized only six months grants. The study on support was to be conducted and completed by June 20, 1983, but that did not happen. The study was to review the existing support structure to determine whether or not there was a more effective, efficient and economical delivery system for the provision of national support and state support.


Legal Services Corporation Report: Support Needs and Resources of Legal Professionals Serving the Poor. Prepared for the LSC by Mary Utne O’Brien, NORC. March, 1984, appendix 1-7. Copy available at the NEJL.

The study involved four components. The first was a survey to identify the areas in which support was needed; specific information on where and how support needs were presently being fulfilled; the effectiveness of the sources of support arid satisfaction with those sources; and information on potential sources to meet unsatisfied support needs. That survey was carried out by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) under a contract with the Corporation. It was not publicly released until 1985. The results of that survey supported the continuation of the existing state and national support centers.

Key findings of the NORC study include the following:

  • Most legal services personnel find that their frequent or important support needs are being met; 74.7% of project directors and 68.8% of staff attorneys obtained assistance for their very important or very frequent needs.
  • Next to their own program colleagues, legal services field lawyers and project directors turn to national support centers most frequently for support needs; 65% of project directors and 55.5% of staff attorneys turn to LSC-funded support entities for 21% or more of their support needs.
  • During the period from 1982 to the summer of 1983 when the survey was taken, 94% of project directors, 87% of field attorneys, and 98% of legal services paralegals received assistance from national support centers.
  • Of all support resources available, both within and without legal services programs, national support centers provided the most satisfactory services. State support centers rated nearly as high; 89.9% of program directors, 90.3% of staff attorneys, 81.6% of paralegals and 85.7% of Judicare attorneys who used national support found the service very satisfactory, the highest rating
  • Co-counseling assistance is needed by large numbers of legal services 69.3% of project directors and 62.7% of staff attorneys listed co-counseling as one of their needs.

Second, the Corporation undertook an evaluation of each of the 17 national support centers and 11 of the state support centers. These evaluations were of mixed quality; some had to be redone because of their poor quality. All evaluations contained numerous factual errors. Many of the evaluators had no previous legal services experience and knew nothing about the support structure.

Third, the Corporation was to commission a study of the “important poverty law areas” and “alternative resources” in these areas which would go beyond the survey and the evaluations.

Such a study was never commissioned.

Fourth, the study was to review all of the current records of national support and address the specific questions raised in 1982 by the grants and contracts committee.

The Corporation also imposed a new requirement on both state and national support centers. They were to set forth their plans, proposals and timetables within 90 days after January 1, 1983 for closing any Washington offices or separate state capital offices or show cause to the satisfaction of the LSC president why the services at separate offices to local programs or to its area of specialized law could continue in view of the new Congressional restrictions and prohibitions on legislative activities. All of the national and state support centers provided such information. None of their separate capital or Washington offices were closed because no separate office was devoted exclusively to lobbying as the board and new president believed.

In 1983, LSC also promulgated LSC Instruction 83-9, Grant Conditions for National and State Support, 48 Fed. Reg. 54,305 (December 1983). In the state and national support instruction and a subsequent proposed regulation, 49 Fed. Reg. 34190 (August 28, 1984) LSC attempted to narrow the role of national and state support centers. Under LSC plans, centers would have been limited to providing advice, assistance, training and materials to local legal services staff. They  would have been severely limited or precluded from a whole range of advocacy activities which state and national support have previously undertaken: legislative representation before Congress and at the state level; administrative representation before federal and state agencies; litigation challenging major national or state policies; and development of networks of advocates and client groups, both to assure effective coordination of advocacy activities and to mobilize support when necessary to prevent implementation of new policies. The Instruction also prohibited centers from using fiscal year 1984 funds to support branch offices.

Fourteen national support centers brought litigation challenging the Instruction. On December 28, 1983, the District Court in DC issued a temporary restraining order and in January 31, 1984 a preliminary injunction, National Senior Citizens Law Center v. LSC, 581 F. Supp. 1362 (D.D.C. 1984). This was affirmed on appeal at 751 F.2d. 1391 (D.C. Cir., January 11, 1985) which held that the Instruction violated a rider (known as the “affirmative rider”) in the 1984 LSC Appropriation.

The “affirmative” rider preventing an LSC board of directors, which was not confirmed by the Senate, from taking adverse action against legal services programs. It was first included during 1982 for the FY 1983 appropriation which took the form of a Continuing Resolution. Congress adopted a FY 1984 appropriations bill in late November of 1983 which strengthened the “affirmative rider” by (1) providing for a clear formula for funding legal services programs and prohibiting LSC from altering those grant levels and (2) refunding all current grantees and contractors with a required funding increase unless contrary action was taken by a confirmed LSC board of directors by January 1, 1984. Both the 1984 restrictions and affirmative rider provisions were kept in place under the FY 1985 appropriations act.

LSC has also attempted to redirect training efforts. In the states, training has focused on both substantive law developments and skills for advocacy and has included both state and local training on more routine issues and regional and national training on new national poverty law developments and such skill areas as legislative advocacy and federal litigation. National conferences and seminars were held which brought together advocates from across the country to discuss new developments and to encourage coordination of local efforts. LSC would now limit the training to routine substantive developments and skills, eliminate regional and national conferences and preclude the use of training as a means of developing effective networks of advocates.

LSC has sought to change the direction of training by eliminating funding for the five regional training centers and the substantive law training program. These efforts were only partially successful because litigation blocked the termination of the regional training center grants.

A preliminary injunction was issued on March 23, 1984 based on an opinion of March 6, 1984, enjoining the Corporation from terminating grants to the regional training centers because its actions violated the “affirmative rider” and because the Corporation failed to provide a hearing as required by §§l007 (a) (9) and l0ll of the LSC Act. See Massachusetts Law Reform Institute v. Legal Services Corporation, 581 F. Supp 1197 (D.D.C. 1984). LSC then sought and obtained an expedited appeal. On June 14, 1984, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the preliminary injunction finding neither abuse of discretion nor any reliance upon an incorrect legal theory. The district court issued a final judgment on December 19, 1984. See 601 F.Supp. 415 (D.D.C. 1984). The case was settled in June 1985.

As part of the effort to redefine support functions, LSC sought to increase the amount of training undertaken by state and national support centers. This step, if it had not been part of the effort to restrict support center advocacy activity, and if additional funds had been provided, may well have enhanced training for program staff. In 1983, however, LSC did not attempt to develop any new approach to training before taking steps to eliminate the structure put in place in 1982. Nor did LSC attempt to build upon the structure and make improvements in it. Instead, LSC began dismantling the training programs before the experiment with the decentralized approach they represented could be fully tested. In fact, the evaluations which LSC conducted in 1983 suggested that the regional training centers were providing effective training.

With regard to the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, LSC entered into extensive negotiations with the National Clearinghouse over its 1984 contract. The Clearinghouse had been funded by contract beginning in 1981. A major difference between the Clearinghouse and the Corporation staff was over the issue of whether LSC staff could stop the Clearinghouse from carrying articles that were either critical of legal services or discussed national poverty law developments arising out of legislative and federal agency policies. The dispute was resolved and the Clearinghouse funded for 1984 and beyond.

Another support controversy involved six computer-assisted legal research (CALR) projects which were funded in 1981 and 1982 to provide computer-assisted legal research services to local programs on a regional basis. LSC was considering a major study and evaluation of CALR. It failed to fund the CALR projects until late March of 1984, and unsuccessfully attempted to limit funding to six months. It also sought unsuccessfully to deny the projects the percentage increase in funding to which they were entitled under the LSC Appropriations Act for 1984 (Pub. L. 98-166). The Corporation never proceeded with the evaluation.

In short, the early efforts of the boards appointed by President Reagan did not dismantle the support infrastructure. It remained in place through 1985.

Alan Houseman is the former executive director of CLASP and emeritus senior fellow of the organization, and the president of the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library. The opinions presented in this blog series are his own.

Growth of the Support System

By Alan Houseman

[Part 10 of the series on the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Support: p. 3]

This is the third in a series of blogs that is focusing on the development, growth and demise of the federally funded support infrastructure: national support centers; state support; training; technical assistance; and information sharing and dissemination. This blog will explore what LSC did in 1977-1981 to grow and expand the support system. The second blog explored what LSC did in 1975 and 1976 to preserve the support system brought over from the OEO legal services program. The first blog focused on the development of that unique system and ended with the inclusion of the “Green Amendment” in the LSC Act.

lsc_logoThe Corporation did not develop a coherent support policy until late 1978. See LSC, Support: Policies and Options for 1979 and Beyond (September 14, 1978). That policy developed after meetings held by key LSC staff; the Next Steps process; the development of a paper on National Advocacy; a joint PAG, NCC, NLADA task force on support; and the creation of a LSC support task force in the Summer of 1978 which held two large meetings and three smaller meetings and which discussed a planning paper prepared by LSC staff Alan Houseman and Judy Riggs. In addition, the 1007(h) study required by Congress in the 1977 LSC Reauthorization called for creation of national support entities on immigration and veterans. See Special Legal Problems and Problems of Access to Legal Services of Veterans, Migrant and Season Farmworkers, Native Americans, People with Limited English-Speaking Abilities and Individuals in Sparsely Populated Areas (LSC 1980).

Special legal problems and problems of access to legal services of veterans, Native Americans, people with limited English-speaking abilities, migrant and seasonal farm workers, individuals in sparsely populated areas : a report to Congress as required by section 1007 (h) of the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974, as amended. Summary. Washington, DC: LSC, 1980.

The new LSC support policy mandated: (1) increased national support through increased funding for existing centers, the development of new support centers, expansion of national advocacy and the development of manuals and materials; (2) development of state support to carry out three principal functions of state level advocacy, coordination and support initially through a state planning process and ultimately with increased funding; (3) decentralization of training, from national events to local and regional training; (4) an expanded Clearinghouse Review to include articles and discussions of delivery issues; and (5) targeting of technical (or management assistance) to program problems as defined through monitoring and evaluation. The policy was never fully implemented. This was due to the low priority placed upon support in the LSC budget requests and among the supporters of the program in Congress. While not overtly hostile, many of the moderate Congressional supporters, particularly on the appropriations committee, did not give high priority to increased support but instead pressured LSC to complete the “minimum access” plan of providing programs to cover every county in the U.S. and territories.

National Support: Growth did come eventually for national support although no significant new money was available until 1979. The new support policy set out four principle functions for national support: (1) support of legal services staff and clients though individual service work, library and resource material, training, communications, the development of manuals and materials, technical assistance and development of strategies for use by local program staff; (2) litigation, including serving as counsel for eligible clients and co-counsel with local program staff; (3) legislative and administrative representation on behalf of eligible clients, including representation before Congress; and (4) coordination and establishment of networks with local program staff, other advocates and advocate organizations representing the poor, Many of the centers were funded to open Washington, DC offices for advocacy before Congress and in the federal agencies. Responsibilities of some of the existing centers were expanded, and new funding was made available for additional responsibilities and for special projects. All of the centers were encouraged to produce manuals and materials for use by local program staff, and additional funds were made available for these products. The Youth Law Center and the National Juvenile Law Center merged in 1980 into the National Center on Youth Law.

New initiatives were funded to cover family law (National Center on Women and Family Law), immigration (National Immigration Law Center), access to federal courts (Access to Justice Project at NLADA), veteran’s issues (National Veterans Legal Services Project), civil rights (through a contract with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law), food and hunger (Food Research and Action Center) and mental disability law (Mental Health Law Project). However, there remained a number of areas in which support needs were great and no center was available to provide assistance (e.g., physically disabled).

State Support: There was substantial growth in state support. OEO had funded the Western Center on Law and Poverty (California); Michigan Legal Services; Massachusetts Law Reform; Ohio State Legal Services; Greater Upstate Law Project (New York) and Legal Services of New Jersey. When discretionary money became available from the Corporation in 1977 and 1978, the programs in some states (primarily in the South and Southwest) pooled resources to establish state support projects–then called “joint ventures.” Often these projects limited their functions to training and legislative and administrative advocacy. Virtually none carried on the full range of activities of those programs funded through OEO. In other states where expansion was great, some state support entities were created as new programs or parts of expansion programs. In some states, the statewide program provided support to its staff and the staff of any other program.

Eventually, LSC recognized the need for state support in all states and in 1979 began the process of state planning for and funding state level advocacy, coordination and support around the country. However, because of budget pressures and the Congressional emphasis on “minimum access,” new money was not allocated until 1981. The plans were only partially implemented when the appropriations reductions for FY 1982 stopped the expansion of state support.

Training: Perhaps the greatest increase in support occurred in training. Substantial new funds were allocated to OPS in 1978 through 1980. OPS originally gave high priority to a series of national and regional training events for attorneys and paralegals. These events were beginning to come under increasing criticism from local program staff and local project directors (as well as clients) when the support study began. A National Training Advisory Committee (NTAC) was established in 1978 and recommended a shift in training from the national to the local level and increased use of training grants to states and regions to conduct their own training activities. The support study adopted a view that was generally consistent with the recommendations coming from field programs and the advisory committee. By then, however, the OPS staff had been

increased substantially. Tension began to arise between the desires of OPS staff and the recommendations of the advisory committees and the support study.

Bureaucratic resistance to the shift in training contemplated by the support policy also existed within OFS and the regional offices. The regional offices saw the opportunity to expand their activities and to use training as a means to improve quality in programs. In response to the regional office pressures and the OPS desires, LSC adopted a bureaucratically acceptable compromise. Instead of creating regional training centers, LSC regionalized its own staff, placing regional training coordinators in the regional offices. The coordinators were accountable both to the regional office director in OFS and to OPS. They were given some new funds to provide local training grants to programs.

The support policy contemplated turning most national training over to the national support centers. Some of the centers were reluctant to undertake the substantial training role originally contemplated without significantly increased funding. When additional funds for national training and national conferences were made available, the support centers provided the increased training. The solution wasn’t entirely accepted. There continued to be internal divisions within LSC and legal services over the training efforts and the role which OPS and the support centers (state and national) should play.

The training aspect of the support study was never fully implemented until the 1981 budget crisis forced the LSC staff to seriously consider how effective training was to exist in the future. LSC created five regional training centers by funding existing programs to undertake training activities previously done at LSC. Also, LSC funded the Western Center on Law and Poverty to undertake substantive law training. These grants provided funds through 1983. At the time the grants were made, the LSC senior staff expected the training centers to function as permanent LSC grantees. However, because of the severe funding reductions, there was insufficient money to provide funding over a longer period of time.

Also in 1981, LSC gave a grant to NLADA to deliver Management Assistance and created an independent National Clearinghouse.

Support–An Overview: To a certain extent, the elevation of “support” was to be expected. As the delivery system matured in any given place, it became clear that there were many desirable roles between national advocates and local office staff and that the support centers had only scratched the surface of needed national activities. Training was an obvious way to improve quality of service and it made sense to initially develop much of the training at the national level. State support addressed the inability of local county or city-based programs to address state policy issues and to coordinate advocacy within a state. It was also expectable that support would come under criticism from within. Leadership by support centers would be perceived as less necessary as local programs built-up experienced staff and law developed in most of the “poverty law” areas.

Finally, it was predictable that support policy should be a bellwether of the maturing of the overall delivery system. In the beginning, aggressive and imaginative legal services lawyers had freedom to take on new problems, develop new theories, and establish new rights. By the time of the Corporation, much of that freedom had disappeared. Large and intricate bodies of law had developed. Except for national advocacy (and some state advocacy) there was an expectation that field programs could handle all problems in these areas. Clients had come to expect this performance. However, only with extensive training, specialization and support were the expectations reachable. As the Corporation settled legal services into a service delivery bureaucracy, support became a central and growing part of the system. It undertook critical advocacy at the national and state level that local programs could not provide to their clients. It created and maintained networks of advocates in states and nationally to assure effective coordination and communication. It provided essential background materials and manuals. It participated in training. If support was no longer the engine of reform, it was a major source of quality and competency.

Alan Houseman is the former executive director of CLASP and emeritus senior fellow of the organization, and the president of the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library. The opinions presented in this blog series are his own.

Symposium at USC Gould School of Law: Reframing the Welfare Queen

Reframing the Welfare Queen: Feminist and Critical Race Theory Alternatives to Existing Poverty Discourse,  held on on April 23-24, 2015 at USC Gould School of Law. The symposium will feature numerous feminist and Critical Race Theory scholars from across the country.  The gathering will “discuss the ways in which the cultural construct of the welfare queen imposes discursive limits on anti-poverty discourse and, additionally, to consider what the welfare queen construct teaches us about the State’s anxieties about poor women and women more generally.  The opening speaker for the event is Dorothy Roberts.”

For more details about the conference and to RSVP, click on the link:

Preservation of the Support System

By Alan Houseman

[Part 9 of the series on the 40th anniversary of the Legal Services Corporation, Support: p. 2]

This is the second in a series of blogs that is focusing on the development, growth and demise of the federally funded support infrastructure: national support centers; state support; training; technical assistance; and information sharing and dissemination. This blog will explore what LSC did in 1975 and 1976 to preserve the support system brought over from the OEO legal services program. The first blog focused on the development of that unique system and ended with the inclusion of the “Green Amendment” in the LSC Act.

lsc_logoThe first real policy controversy facing the new LSC board was what to do with the back-up centers. In response to the Nixon veto threat, Congress had passed the Green Amendment. Under that amendment, research, training, technical assistance and clearinghouse functions had to be done by LSC directly “and not by grant or contract.” Congresswoman Green intended the language to cover direct advocacy for clients, an essential part of the back-up center function, but failed to state that intent clearly in the language. As a result, the language required LSC to take over only some of the functions of the back-up centers. Other functions couldn’t be picked up by LSC because its staff could not practice law directly. Thus, the LSC board faced a quandary. It could defund the back-up centers as Congresswoman Green intended, but only by eliminating some of their functions entirely. It could continue funding the centers but would have to do something to cover the activities specified in the Green Amendment.

In 1975, as one of its first actions, the LSC board requested a legal analysis from David Tatel, the transition General Counsel, and commissioned a study by a prominent public interest lawyer, Alexander Polikoff, to examine the activities of the centers and LSC’s ability to support all or part of the activities. It also heard from former Congresswoman Green and relevant Congressional committee chairmen. The Tatel Memorandum and the study conclusions known as the “Polikoff Report,” found client representational activities, including the research normally done by a lawyer for a client, to be outside the meaning of the Green Amendment. The study found that the centers engaged in both permitted and nonpermitted activities. Based on the Polikoff Report and the Tatel Memorandum, LSC President Tom Ehrlich proposed evaluating each center and continuing those that delivered services still permitted under the Green Amendment while narrowing their activities solely to those permitted by the Act. The term “support center” was coined to connote the new role. Based on the evaluation, all the substantive area centers were refunded.


Memorandum by David Tatel to Louis F. Oberdorfer, Sept. 5, 1975, p. 1. Clint Bamberger Papers, NEJL.


Memorandum by David Tatel to Louis F. Oberdorfer, Sept. 5, 1975, p. 2. Clint Bamberger Papers, NEJL.

While the back-up centers survived as “support centers,” they received little from the Corporation in the initial years. Funding was not significantly increased over 1975 levels although the number of field program staff the centers supported increased dramatically through expansion. As a result, the centers were stretched very thin in attempting to meet the assistance requests, particularly those from expansion programs and offices.

Based on the Polikoff Report, the Tatel Analysis and the Ehrlich Memo, the training centers (Legal Services Training Program and National Paralegal Institute), the NLADA Management Assistance Project and the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services were terminated. The Clearinghouse was absorbed into the Corporation with no change in office location and little change in staff and operation.

The Green Amendment very much shaped the future of the Corporation. The Corporation created two separate divisions—the Office of Program Support and the Research Institute–to take over the activities of the back-up centers that had to be handled by the Corporation. This organization was a particular stimulus to training and to research activities that came “in-house” under the Green Amendment. The Research Institute produced a series of papers, articles and books on “poverty law” subjects, sponsored conferences to discuss and disseminate its work and undertook delivery research.

The Office of Program Support (OPS) concentrated on training, greatly expanding the national training effort and eventually working into regional and local training. Most of the activities of the terminated centers were continued in OPS. Management assistance functions were divided between OPS and the Office of Field Services (OFS). Up until 1980, OPS and OFS shared authority for management assistance without a clear division of responsibility. Regional offices (part of OFS) provided management assistance to programs. Washington OFS staff developed efforts to assist new and expansion programs. OPS staff ran training and did some direct management assistance. Technical assistance, at least as administered by the regional offices, took various forms–cash awards to accomplish a discrete purpose (to computerize the financial system or to produce a pro-se divorce video tape); the provision of outside consultants to provide a particular service (a management systems expert, or an architect, or a group facilitator to help set program priorities); and consultation on an administrative issue by regional office staff.

During the reauthorization of the LSC Act in 1977, the Green Amendment was deleted, although broad general legal or policy research unrelated to representation of eligible clients could still only be done in-house. This legislative change gave LSC more discretion on how to deliver and fund support.

Alan Houseman’s next blog will explore what LSC did in1977-1981 to grow and expand the support system.

Alan Houseman is the former executive director of CLASP and emeritus senior fellow of the organization, and the president of the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library. The opinions presented in this blog series are his own.