NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Legal Services Corp. Sails On

October 29, 1997

Some observers are chiding Republicans in Congress for failing to take the ax to the Legal Services Corporation -- an agency many believe is out of control.

The LSC was established more than 20 years ago and given the mission to aid the poor with civil legal problems. Critics say it has repeatedly violated its charter and become blatantly politicized.

Here are a few of its forays:

  • In just the last year, the LSC's nearly 280 grant recipients have sued states over welfare reform, fought drug-related evictions from public housing and opposed the deportation of immigrants with felony records.
  • Texas Rural Legal Aid filed a lawsuit in December challenging the absentee ballots of military voters and their families, after the military vote helped to elect two Republicans to local offices.
  • Brooklyn Legal Services stopped the eviction of a woman from public housing, even though police had seized 54 vials of crack cocaine from her apartment.
  • Critics accuse LSC of defending drug dealers from New York to Florida and opposing legitimate reform efforts.

Observers point out that LSC beneficiaries have sued in federal court to stop reforms Congress passed last year aimed at de-politicizing the program. The reforms included bans on ideologically-motivated suits -- such as challenges to welfare and immigration reforms.

After the House Appropriations Committee voted to cut LSC funding from $283 million to $141 million last month, 45 Republicans broke ranks and joined Democrats to reverse the vote.

Source: John K. Carlisle (National Legal and Policy Center), "GOP to Legal Services Corp.: Hurt Us Again," Investor's Business Daily, October 29, 1997.


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