Category Archives: Oral history interviews

Marshall Hartman receives Illinois State Bar Association’s Laureate Award

Marshall Hartman, one of the founders and former president of the CNEJL, has received the Illinois State Bar Association’s Laureate Award.

More information and a biographical summary can be found at the Illinois State Bar Association’s website:

The 1990 NEJL oral history interview with Marshall Hartman, conducted by James Neuhard, can be accessed through Digital Georgetown:

Congratulations, Marshall!



Journal of Court Reporting Features NEJL in Article on Law Day

The Journal of Court Reporting featured the NEJL featured the NEJL in an an article: “Celebrating the legal profession on Law Day and year-round.” The NEJL has been fortunate to partner with the oral history program of the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF)  and their wonderful volunteer reporters have been providing our oral history program with critical professional assistance for many years.

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:

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:

Transcript of interview with Brooksley E. Born available online

A transcript of the oral history interview with Brooksley Born, conducted by Alan Houseman in June 2015, is now available online. In the interview, Brooksley Born, retired partner at Arnold & Porter, discusses her public service and pro bono work, which she pursued using the firm as a base. Together with Marna Tucker, she started teaching the pioneering “Women and the Law” course at Catholic University in 1972, while also being involved in the formation of the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. In 1973, she helped to launch the Women’s Rights Project at CLASP, which later became the National Women’s Law Center. Other topics include her extensive work with the ABA, where she has chaired the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and the Consortium on Legal Services and the Public. Born was the first woman to be appointed to the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary, and, with Marna Tucker, founded the ABA Women’s Caucus. She also discusses her tenure as the chair of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) from 1996-1999, where she urged that the over-the-counter derivatives market should be subject to federal oversight and regulation. The government’s failure to regulate that market was later criticized as a major cause of the 2007-2008 financial crisis. “What was important to me,” she said, “was always trying to look clearly at a situation and see the dangers for people who were not represented or spoken for, and I think I was doing the same thing at the CFTC as I was doing on SCLAID or the National Women’s Law Center. It was the American public that was endangered by the over-the-counter derivatives, and I felt I should voice their interests and try to represent them…The lesson that I’ve learned throughout my life is that you can’t be silent about the needs of others that you see.” (Transcript, p. 30) Ms. Born has received many awards recognizing her work in the areas of women’s rights, legal aid, public interest law, and her public service. In 2009, Born was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in recognition of her political courage to sound early warnings about the dangers of the unregulated derivatives market. Born has overseen ABA’s Women Trailblazers in the Law oral history project, capturing the experiences of women pioneers in the legal profession.

Transcript of the oral history interview with Brooksley E. Born, conducted by Alan Houseman on behalf of the NEJL Oral History Project, June 22, 2015, online at Digital Georgetown.

Featured oral history: Interview with Henry Freedman

Henry_FreedmanHenry Freedman retired in 2014 after serving as the Executive Director of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice in New York City for more than four decades. In this interview, which Alan Houseman conducted as part of the NEJL oral history project in October of 2013, Henry Freedman recalls his career at the Center, while reflecting on the development of the legal services movement in the United States. Freedman began his career with the Center on Social Welfare Policy and the Law – which had been established by Ed Sparer at Columbia University in 1965 – in 1967, as a Reginald Heber Smith fellow, and continued on the staff until 1970. After teaching at Catholic University, he returned as the Center’s executive director in 1971. The NCLEJ has been a pioneer legal services organization — first as a model “national support center” for legal services lawyers, then launching a high impact litigation program to protect Medicaid, food stamps and cash assistance for low-income families, and later introducing disability rights law into the area of public benefits.

Freedman has chaired the Committee on Legal Assistance of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York; he was in the first class of Reginald Heber Smith fellows; and chaired the Organization of Legal Services Back-up Centers. His awards include the NLADA’s Reginald Heber Smith Award for Dedicated Service and the New York State Bar Association’s Public Interest Law Award. Freedman is a 1962 graduate of Amherst College and 1965 graduate of Yale Law School where he served as president of the Legal Aid Association.

Oral history interview with Henry Freedman, October 25, 2013.

The NEJL collections also include the Henry Freedman papers (NEJL 014).

Oral history interview with Thomas Ehrlich available online

tom_ehrlichIn the 2004 interview, Thomas Ehrlich discusses his career, with a particular focus on his appointment and tenure as the first president of the Legal Services Corporation in 1975. Ehrlich served for three years, closely collaborating with Clint Bamberger, whom he had asked to serve as the executive vice president. Ehrlich recalls the tense moments in October 1975, when Revius O. Ortique flew in at the last hour to break a tie on the eleven-member LSC Board to approve Clint Bamberger’s appointment.  Despite this initial challenge, the Board turned out to be “very supportive of virtually everything that Clint and I tried to do together.” Ehrlich also discusses the major LSC initiatives during this period of rapid expansion of the legal services program, and the major policy challenges that they faced, such as the Green Amendment, which proposed to eliminate the back-up centers.

The full length video recording of the interview, as well as a transcript, is available online at:

Featured resource: Oral history interview with Judge Patricia Wald

In the interview, conducted by Linda Perle in 2005, Patricia Wald recalled how she became involved in the nascent legal services field in the mid 1960s. While raising her five children, she co-authored a working paper on Bail in the United States for the 1964 National Conference on Bail and Criminal Justice with Daniel Freed, which was part of the criminal justice reform initiative of the Department of Justice. In the following year, she helped organize and prepared a working paper for the 1965 Conference on Law and Poverty, a milestone in the establishment of the OEO legal services program. Wald then started working for the National Crime Commission, but left the Justice Department after the change of administration in 1968. She applied for a job with the Neighborhood Legal Services Program in Washington, D.C. in 1968, where she eventually worked with the test case task force. While working with NLSP, she was involved with some of the most significant cases that shaped the practice of poverty law, including Edwards v. Habib, 397 F.2d 687 (1968) and Helen Harris v. Guy H. Harris, Yvonne H. Parks v. Norman E. Parks, 424 F.2d 806 (1970) and McKelton v. Bruno 428 F.2d 718 (1970). She also recalled the political struggles with the D.C .government over welfare cases in the days prior to home rule. In the early 70s, she joined the staff of the Center for Law and Social Policy, where she worked on mental health issues and later for the Mental Health Law Project, later known as the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. After serving as the as the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs at the Department of Justice during the Carter administration, Wald was appointed by President Carter as the first woman to serve as a Judge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1979, where she served until 1999. From 1986-1991, she served as the Court’s Chief Judge. After her retirement in 1991, she was appointed to serve as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. After returning from The Hague, President Bush appointed Wald to serve on the WMD Commission.

The full-length recording and transcript is available at:

A draft copy of Patricia Wald’s report for the 1965 Conference on Law and Poverty is available at the NEJL: