Category Archives: History of Legal Services

Materials from the National Institute for Education in Law and Poverty donated to the NEJL

Thomas Buckley, a retired professor from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, donated his collection of materials from the National Institute for Education in Law and Poverty (NIELP) to the NEJL. Thomas Buckley served as the Deputy Director of the NIELP from 1967-1971. The director was Craig W. Christensen. The Institute was established in 1967 at Northwestern University School of Law to develop and implement an educational program for Legal Service attorneys. The goal wnielpas to go beyond serving “individual clients with individual problems,” and train lawyers as advocates to address systemic issues of poverty and “make new law on behalf of the poor,” writes Buckley. Welfare law and consumer law weren’t even taught at law schools at the time, and the training programs document the dynamic development of these areas of law at the time. The collection includes materials from the 1968 Conference on Welfare Law and materials on the Uniform Consumer Credit Code, prepared by the National Consumer Law Center in 1969.

Thomas Buckley graduated from Fordham University (1958) and from Yale Law School (1961). Prior to joining NIELP in 1967, he was a Visiting Professor at the School of Law at Boston University Law School (1966-1967) and an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Dakota School of Law (1964-1966). From 1961-1964, he was an Associate at Carter, Ledyard & Milburn in NYC. Buckley joined the faculty at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1971.

Clinton Bamberger Dies: The Loss of an Icon

[Cross-posted from the NLADA Civil Legal Aid Update]

By Alan W. Houseman

Clinton Bamberger, a giant in legal aid, died last Sunday in Baltimore. He was a friend and mentor to me and many others in the civil legal aid movement. Clint’s wife of 64 years, Katharine, died in December.

Clint was the first director of the federal legal services program in the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1965 and became Executive Vice-President of the Legal Services Corporation when it first began in 1975. He was also President of NLADA.


Clint Bamberger (standing), at the dedication of the NEJL at the Washington College of Law, September 1997. Left to right: Danna Bell-Russell, Justice Earl Johnson, Jr., Claudio Grossman and Patrick Kehoe. Photograph by Hilary Schwab. Published with permission. NEJL photo collection.

He had an extensive career in legal education. He was Dean of the Catholic University of America’s law school in the early 1970s. From 1979-1982 he worked at the Legal Services Institute in Boston with Gary Bellow and Jeanne Charn. The Institute was affiliated with Harvard and Northeastern law schools and was a unique initiative to develop a new way of training future legal aid lawyers. 1982, he joined the University of Maryland law school to build its clinical law program into a nationally distinctive effort using law students to provide free services to the poor.

Prior to his direct involvement in civil legal aid, Clint was an associate of Piper & Marbury, served as Maryland assistant attorney general from 1958 to 1959, and in 1960 became a partner at Piper & Marbury. In 1963, he argued Brady v. Maryland in the United States Supreme Court in the case that led the Court to rule that prosecutors must give defendants any evidence they possess that may indicate their innocence, known as the “Brady Rule.” Many criminal lawyers and scholars perceive the Brady Rule as one of the most significant developments in criminal justice law.

Several other accomplishments are worthy of note. In 1984, he brought a lead paint case that allowed tenants to put rent into a court-controlled account if lead-based paint was “easily accessible to a child” even without signs that the child had a high level of lead in their blood.  In 1989, Clint became involved in developing a legal aid system in South Africa, prior to the end of apartheid in 1994. He was also the first board member named to the Open Society Institute – Baltimore, a foundation that seeks to address issues of poverty, criminal justice and education.

For the civil legal aid community, Clint was not just the first director of the federal program, he, along with his deputy Earl Johnson, was its architect.

He envisioned civil legal aid as a critical tool to combat poverty and emphasized the ability of lawyers to empower poor people to help themselves. Speaking to an annual meeting of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in 1965, Clint argued that “Lawyers must be activists to leave a contribution to society. The law is more than a control; it is an instrument for social change. The role of [the] OEO program is to provide the means within the democratic process for the law and lawyers to release the bonds which imprison people in poverty, to marshal the forces of law to combat the causes and effects of poverty. Each day, I ask myself, how will lawyers representing poor people defeat the cycle of poverty?” A year later, Clint told the National Conference of Bar Presidents: “We cannot be content with the creation of systems of rendering free legal assistance to all the people who need but cannot afford a lawyer’s advice. This program must contribute to the success of the War on Poverty. Our responsibility is to marshal the forces of law and the strength of lawyers to combat the causes and effect of poverty. Lawyers must uncover the legal causes of poverty, remodel the system which generates the cycle of poverty and design new social, legal and political tools and vehicles to move poor people from deprivation, depression, and despair to opportunity, hope and ambition.”

Clint and Earl fleshed out the overall design for the program. Unlike the legal aid systems that existed in other countries, which generally used private attorneys who were paid on a fee-for-service basis (known as Judicare), OEO’s plan for the legal services program in the United States utilized staff attorneys working for private, nonprofit entities. OEO’s grantees were to be full-service legal assistance providers, each serving a specific geographic area, with the obligation to ensure access to the legal system for all clients and client groups. The only specific national earmarking of funds was for services to Native Americans and migrant farmworkers.

Although OEO was able to generate proposals for federal funding from organizations eager to provide legal assistance, the legal services program also generated substantial opposition within the legal profession, mainly from local bar associations that represented private attorneys practicing in the areas that would be served by the new programs. One common response that arose out of local opposition to legal services programs was efforts by local bar associations to seek OEO funding for Judicare. However, Clint refused to fund Judicare programs as the primary model for legal services delivery, agreeing to fund only a few programs, primarily in rural areas.

In spite of the initial external controversy over Judicare, within nine months of taking office, Clint and his staff had completed the Herculean task of funding 130 OEO legal services programs. In the end, despite their initial misgivings, the OEO legal services program obtained the support of many local and state bar associations. By the end of 1966, federal funding grew to $25 million for these local programs and national infrastructure programs established to provide litigation support, training, and technical assistance. By 1968, 260 OEO programs were operating in every state except North Dakota, where the governor had vetoed the grants.

As Executive Vice-President of LSC, Clint helped shape the plan to expand to every county in the US, oversaw the development of the Office of Program Support and the Research Institute, developed some of the early delivery research which LSC undertook and provided constant guidance to the Senior Staff and President Tom Ehrlich.

Earl Johnson summed up his remarkable influence on legal aid: “The Legal Services Program would never have succeeded without Clint’s bold vision, his oratorical skills in articulating that vision, and his courage in facing down those who tried to kill the program at its birth. I had the great privilege of having Clint as a boss for 8 months and an inspiration and good friend for a half century. He belongs in the same rank of legal aid heroes as Reginald Heber Smith and Arthur von Briesen. ”

At the NLADA Annual Conference in December, NLADA will hold an event celebrating the life and accomplishments of Clint. A memorial fund in Clint’s name has been established at Viva House, 26 S. Mount St., Baltimore 21223.


Featured oral history: Interview with Dennis Groenenboom

Interview with Dennis Groenenboom, November 13, 2014, conducted by Alan Houseman

Dennis Groenenboom, the Executive Director of Iowa Legal Aid, spent his entire career in legal services. After obtaining is J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, he joined Iowa Legal Aid (then known as the Legal Services Corporation of Iowa) in 1978. Dennis worked as a staff attorney, managing attorney, senior staff attorney, and deputy director, prior to becoming the executive director in 1992. In the interview, he recalls some of the earlier cases he worked on that focused on disability rights, senior citizens’ rights and Dennis Groenenboom2Medicaid issues.

Dennis discusses the history and development of Iowa Legal Aid, which became a statewide program in 2003. In the early years, Iowa Legal Aid was funded almost exclusively by the LSC, but the organization started diversifying its funding in the 1980s. After Congress reduced LSC funding in 1995, Iowa was one of the first states that initiated new state support. Driven and supported by an extraordinary long-term staff, the work of Iowa Legal Aid has covered a wide range of issues and has impacted and improved many areas of law in the state, such as housing law, where Iowa Legal Aid helped to clarify notice provisions and rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants, domestic violence, disability rights, and consumer law. Iowa Legal Aid, which has received a number of technology innovation awards, has also managed to be very accessible on an equal basis for clients across the largely rural state. Special projects have included Iowa Legal Aid’s Health and Law Project, which connects patients of community health centers with lawyers to address underlying legal issues that are impacting the patients’ health, Iowa Legal Aid’s Low-Income Taxpayer clinic, a Foreclosure Defense Project, and coordination of legal services in response to flooding and other disasters in the state, among other special initiatives.

Community outreach and education has always been an important part of the work of Iowa Legal Aid , and the organization distributes its quarterly newsletter, the Equal Justice Journal (previously Poor People’s Press), of which Groenenboom serves as the editor, to over 7,000 households.

Groenenboom has closely worked with the Iowa State Bar Association, where he served on the Health Law Section Council, and served on the Civil Policy Group of the NLADA, which he chaired from June 2012 – November 2014, He has been active in working on social justice issues in his church, Common Cause, and the Iowa Pride Network, among other organizations.

Reflecting on the significance and future direction of legal services work, he emphasizes that: “I think it is very important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that part of what we’re doing is trying to get people out of poverty and to have better lives.”

A transcript of the interview is available at Digital Georgetown:

Featured collection: Gail Kinney collection

Gail Kinney served as the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Bar Association during the 1980s, and then as the Director of the New England Bar Foundation. At the ABA Mid-Winter Meeting in Baltimore in February 1986, Kinney, as well as Michael Greco, president of the Massachusetts Bar, Jonathan Ross, president of the New Hampshire Bar, and Bill Whitehurst, president-elect of the Texas Bar, founded the ad hoc group Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services for the Poor. The grassroots group was ultimately successful in mobilizing and uniting all other state bar associations and many city bar associations in a coalition that was determined to save legal services from the board that was hostile to the mission of the LSC. Kinney, who volunteered to staff the Bar Leaders for the Preservation of Legal Services for the Poor, compiled these files and research materials documenting the collective effort to preserve legal services for the poor during the 1980s. A finding aid for the Gail Kinney Collection (NEJL 066) is available on Digital Georgetown.

The collection includes Gary Bellow’s inspiring reflections: “Comments on Our Situation,” prepared for the Conference on Legal Services, March 6, 1982. The NEJL has made a digitized copy of Bellow’s reflections available on Digital Georgetown:

Legal Services History Matters

By Katharina Hering

In her 1998 article Necessary Legends, Marie Failinger reflects about the importance of legal services history. She writes that: “History is crucial for a vision that will sustain a forward movement of legal assistance programs and beat back propaganda against such programs; it is demanded by the client-centered ethic of such programs; and it is important to a continued sense of community within the legal assistance movement.” (268)*

In the aftermath of the elections, reflecting about legal services history has become particularly meaningful. In his remarks at the NLADA Civil Caucus meeting on November 10th, two days after the elections, Don Saunders, NLADA’s Vice President of Civil Legal Services, reminded the audience that the legal services community has successfully managed to sustain programs and the existence of federal funding through challenges by the Nixon and Reagan administrations, as well as by the 104th Congress. Like no other repository in the United States, the NEJL collections document the continuity and transformations of the legal services movement during these challenges.

Reflecting about the meaning of history for the present, Failinger writes: “Like a metaphor, history is both like and unlike our current situation, and it is exactly those similarities and differences which force us to re-think our present, to discover what the ongoing issues of injustice and response have been over centuries, as well as to understand what is new to our situation, and what is likely to change in the future.” (289)

Our oral histories, in particular, offer the opportunity to encounter the stories of the past, and engage with historical reflections by long-time legal services advocates, whether they began their careers in the sixties during the OEO-Legal Services Program, or after the LSC had been established. “For it is in the encounter with the stories of the past that each lawyer’s – each client’s—own story becomes visible and clear to her and becomes transformed for the future.” (268)

Numerous legal services programs have been celebrating their 50thanniversaries in the past two years, such as the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, DC, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and California Rural Legal Assistance, or are planning celebrations soon, such as Legal Services of New Jersey. In the past five decades, all these programs have adopted different strategies to maintain, develop and grow their equal justice legal work, despite these challenges.

The history of the CRLA, in particular, reflects this persistence. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the CRLA this year and to share these stories of the past with a wider audience, the NEJL has made available streaming video files of our oral history interviews with Michael Bennett, who was CRLA’s first Administrator, and Cruz Reynoso, who became CRLA’s deputy director in 1968 and a few months later its director. These streaming files complement our existing collection of oral history interviews that are already online, several of which also cover the early history of the CRLA, especially the interview with Gary Bellow.

Whether to provide comfort, inspiration, or simply information, listening to these interviews in whole or in part offers welcome moments for reflection during difficult times.

Oral history interview with Cruz Reynoso, conducted by Alan Houseman, August 12. 2002. Oral history collection, National Equal Justice Library, Special Collections, Georgetown Law Library, online at:

Oral history interview with Michael Bennett, conducted by Alan Houseman, May 27, 2004. Oral History Collection, National Equal Justice Library, Georgetown Law Library, online at:

Other resources:

* Failinger, Marie A., Necessary Legends: The National Equal Justice Library and the Importance of Poverty Lawyers’ History (January 1, 1998). St. Louis University Public Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 2 (1998), pp. 265-291. Available at SSRN:

Expanded LSC Records Finding Aid

Let’s C — LSC employees’ newsletter, May 1980. LSC Records, Newsletters series, NEJL.

The NEJl has recently expanded its finding aid for the LSC records (NEJL 012). The Legal Services Corporation Records constitute one of the core collections of the NEJL, and came to the NEJL in several different accessions. Many of the materials were donated from LSC’s in-house library. The collection consists mostly of gray literature – generally defined as publications that are not controlled by commercial publishers, such as research reports and proceedings of board meetings, and of audio-visual materials. The LSC collection is not a traditional manuscript collection and is partially “artificial”: to fill gaps in specific series and to facilitate easier access to LSC materials, materials from other NEJL collections are included in the LSC finding aid, even though they remain part of other NEJL collections, such as the Bill McCalpin Papers.

The records are arranged into the following nine series: 1. Board and committee meetings; 2. Fact books; 3. Budget and appropriation requests; 4. Annual reports; 5. Program directories; 6. Reports and proceedings; 7. training materials, 8. Newsletters and clipping files, and 9. Audio-visual materials.

In re Gault 50th anniversary

The NEJL has started working on a few projects in preparation for the 50th anniversary of In re Gault next year. We are currently collaborating with the NJDC to scan the entire original In re Gault 387 U.S. 1 (1967)  case file, using the new Innovation Hub at the National Archives, for example, and more projects are planned down the road. Stay tuned…

Experiences of a Legal Aid Lawyer by Junius Allison

When reviewing correspondence files from the early 1990s, the NEJL archivist recently discovered an unpublished manuscript: Experiences of a Legal Aid Lawyer by Junius L. Allison [ca. 1993]. Allison (1909-2003), who was originally from North Carolina, worked at Chicago’s Legal Aid Bureau in the 1940s and joined NLADA’s staff in 1953. From 1962-1971, he served as the organization’s Executive Director. Allison’s manuscript includes detailed recollections of his work for the Chicago Legal Aid Bureau in the 1940s, and his work for the NLADA in the 1950s and 1960s, where he closely cooperated with Emery A. Brownell. From an archivist’s perspective, Allison’s memoirs are also interesting, because they include descriptions of the contents of NLADA’s library in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as descriptions of some of NLADA’s promotional projects, such as the launch of the “Justice” TV series in 1953. The manuscript can be reviewed at the NEJL.