This year, Congress may abolish restrictions on the ability of activist legal groups, that receive millions of dollars from the federally-funded Legal Services Corporation (LSC), to file ideologically-motivated lawsuits. Congress imposed these restrictions in 1996 in response to legal services lawyers systematically using taxpayer money to pursue a liberal political agenda that had nothing to do with the LSC’s ostensible mission of assisting the poor with their civil legal needs. These restrictions included bans on representing undocumented aliens, abortion-related litigation, prisoner advocacy, class action suits, and challenges to welfare reform.
Even with the restrictions, legal services lawyers still file lawsuits to push their political agenda. This includes litigation to force spending increases for welfare programs. In addition, legal services lawyers file lawsuits against efforts to rein in corruption and abuse in various welfare programs. A prime example of this occurred in 2003 when Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) … Read More ➡ “Legal Services Group Opposed Welfare Fraud Crackdown”
Alameda County, California is currently in court fighting a lawsuit filed by Bay Area Legal Aid, a grantee of the federally-funded Legal Services Corporation, that challenges the county’s decision to impose a six-month limit on General Assistance benefits for adults that are deemed employable.
General Assistance is a county program that provides a monthly stipend of $336 to indigent, non-homeless adults. The county adopted the time limit in January 2008 as part of an attempt to cut $10 million from the budget. Approximately 8,500 people receive the stipend. The time limit would have cut about 3,000 people from the program.
Bay Area Legal Aid, along with the Public Interest Law Project, filed suit in June to halt the cutbacks. They argue that the county incorrectly classified as employable recipients who could not realistically get a job because the county did not consider factors such as a person’s lack of education, … Read More ➡ “Bay Area Legal Aid Sues to Keep Employable Adults on the Dole”
In October 2008, the LSC-funded California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the San Joaquin Air Pollution Control District for approving the construction of a 6,120-animal dairy in Fresno County without considering the proposed dairy’s impact on the scientifically-unproven global warming threat.
CRLA said the proposed dairy violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not requiring equipment that converts methane gas – a product of cow flatulence – into energy. Matt Vespa of the Center for Biological Diversity, said, “By illegally downplaying the project’s impact on global warming, human health and the environment, the air district squandered a critically important opportunity to incorporate solutions…to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutions from dairies.”
The mission of LSC-funded programs like CRLA is to assist the poor in their routine civil legal needs such as landlord disputes. It is questionable, to say the least, that the poor … Read More ➡ “CRLA Files Suit to Stop Construction of Dairy: Alleges Cow Flatulence Causes Global Warming”
On January 6, 2009, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, an influential liberal activist group, sent a letter to members of Congress calling for the abolition of restrictions on LSC-funded political activism.
In 1996, Congress prohibited LSC-funded organizations from engaging in ideologically-motivated lawsuits. Congress took this action in response to legal services lawyers systematically using taxpayer money to pursue a liberal political agenda that had nothing to do with the LSC’s ostensible mission of assisting the poor with their civil legal needs. These restrictions included bans on representing undocumented aliens, abortion-related litigation, prisoner advocacy, class action suits, challenges to welfare reform, and congressional redistricting cases.
The restrictions have had a noticeable effect in reducing LSC-funded activism. However, on several occasions grantees were found to have violated the restrictions. For example, in 2008 the LSC inspector general subpoenaed client records from California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) to determine if it violated … Read More ➡ “Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Lobbying Congress to End Restrictions on LSC-funded Activism”
Congress recently increased the budget of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) from $350 million to $390 million. However, legal services lawyers systematically engage in litigation that has little or nothing to do with their supposed mission of assisting the poor with their legitimate civil legal needs. For instance, it is questionable to say the least why legal aid lawyers waste taxpayer money to help convicted sex offenders.
In 2004, Lone Star Legal Aid, a LSC grantee, unsuccessfully sought to overturn Texas’ sex offender registration law, which it alleged was unconstitutional for “stigmatizing” convicted sex offenders.
Lone Star filed the suit on behalf of Meredith Trent Creekmore. While serving in the U.S. Army during the mid-1990s, Creekmore sexually abused his daughter when she was two to four years of age. He was caught, convicted in a general court martial, and sentenced to a six-year prison term. Creekmore was released from a federal … Read More ➡ “Lone Star Legal Aid Sues to Overturn Sex Offender Registration Law”
In September 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit, filed by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), alleging that it was unconstitutional for a school district to not admit students who did not live with their legal guardians. The bizarre nature of this lawsuit was that, after an initial denial, the school district did in fact admit the student in question – which meant there was nothing to sue over in the first place.
In dismissing the lawsuit, the appeals court sternly admonished the TRLA lawyer for pursuing a “meritless appeal” which served “no conceivable interest of her client.” The case is yet another example of LSC-funded lawyers using taxpayer money to pursue lawsuits with an ideological agenda that has little or no relevance to the actual needs of their poor clients.
The case began on April 10, 2007 when Marta Zepeda sought to pre-enroll … Read More ➡ “Federal Appeals Court Rebukes Texas RioGrande Lawyer For Filing Meritless Lawsuit”