Submit a Complaint
Should I File a Complaint?
If you think that someone working at one of our grantees did something contrary to the law, you may file a complaint with LSC. Please note, there are many legal aid programs that do not get money from LSC. We can take complaints only when they involve an LSC grantee. Please contact us if you are not sure if you are dealing with an LSC grantee.
If you think that an LSC grantee may have committed waste, fraud, or abuse, then you may file a complaint with LSC or with the LSC Office of Inspector General.
Here are some things you could do before contacting LSC:
- Try contacting the grantee about the problem. You could call or write to the person involved or another person at the grantee.
- If the grantee told you that it could not help you, and you think they made a mistake, you may file a grievance directly with that grantee. Each LSC grantee has a process for complaints or grievances, as required by Part 1621 of the LSC regulations. You can ask anyone at the grantee for their grievance process.
- If you are a client of an LSC grantee, and you think they did not do a good job for you, you may also file a grievance directly with that grantee. Each LSC grantee has a process for complaints or grievances, as required by Part 1621 of the LSC regulations. You can ask anyone at the grantee for their grievance process.
- If you think that an attorney at an LSC grantee (or any other attorney) has acted in an unethical manner, you may file a complaint with the licensing authority for attorneys in your state or area. Usually that is the state court system or the official state bar association. They have the authority to investigate those complaints and discipline attorneys.
- If you think that the LSC grantee discriminated against someone in hiring, firing or employment, including discrimination based on disabilities, you may contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state's human rights agency. Those organizations can investigate your complaint and take action if the LSC grantee violated the law.
- If you have a disability, and you think that the LSC grantee didn't accommodate your disability when you contacted it, then you may file a complaint directly with LSC, or with the U.S. Department of Justice, or with your state's human rights agency.
- If you believe the LSC grantee violated the LSC laws or regulations, you may file a complaint directly with LSC.
What Will LSC Do with a Complaint?
- LSC will review your complaint and decide if it is something we can investigate and respond to.
- If we cannot something about your situation, then we will close the complaint and let you know in writing. We usually do that within a few weeks after we receive your complaint.
- If we can do something, then:
- We will contact you if we need more information.
- We will contact the grantee to investigate the situation.
- We will do whatever else will help us understand the situation.
- If we decide that the grantee did something wrong, and that we can do something about it, then we will decide what to do and take appropriate action.
- We will notify you in writing of our decision and the outcome of your complaint. Depending on the situation, it might take anywhere from two months to more than a year.
What LSC CANNOT Do?
- Make an LSC grantee take your case. LSC cannot force an LSC grantee to take your case. LSC grantees can decide which cases to take and which clients to represent. If you have a criminal case and cannot afford a lawyer, then contact the court about a court-appointed lawyer. If you have a civil forfeiture in a federal court and cannot afford a lawyer, then contact LSC directly about obtaining a lawyer.
- Recover money damages. LSC has no power to award damages to a complainant, even if LSC finds that an organization acted contrary to the LSC Act or regulations.
- Make the lawyer take action you wish him or her to take. Your attorney is a professional and has the responsibility to act in the best possible manner, considering the local law. Frequently, your attorney will present you with your options and should discuss your case with you.
- Resolve complaints about rude behavior. If you believe that someone at an LSC grantee acted in an unprofessional manner, please let that person's supervisor know about this. If the person behaving improperly is the director of the local organization, you may contact a board member of the local organization with respect to your concerns.
- Represent you directly or find a lawyer who will represent you for no charge. LSC does not represent clients or local free lawyers, except for some civil forfeiture cases in Federal court.
Why Should I File a Grievance with My Local Organization?
There are several reasons why a client or applicant should first file a grievance with the local organization. First, this is required by the regulations - if you file a complaint with LSC without having gone through the local process, we will probably ask you to complete this step first. Beyond the mere regulatory requirement, there are several practical reasons for going through the local process first:
- It is the quickest step to resolution.
- It allows the supervising attorney, director, and/or board members a chance to understand what is happening in the local organization, which they administer.
- It allows you to make a personal appeal for your concerns, allowing for direct communication.
It has been our experience that the local organization, staffed with advocates, will strive to understand your concerns and to address them in a thorough, professional manner.
Nevertheless, not every problem can be resolved in a way that everyone likes. Every year LSC grantees represent hundreds of thousands of clients in addition to hundreds of thousands of other people who contact them. Sometimes a client or an applicant is not satisfied, and sometimes the grantee cannot change that.
How Do I File a Complaint?
If you decide to file a complaint with LSC, your complaint must be in writing. LSC does not take complaints over the telephone. You may write a simple letter explaining the situation that you think indicates a violation of the LSC Act or regulations. No special language or form is necessary. However, your letter should contain the following:
- Your full name, address and telephone number(s);
- The program name and address. In addition, please indicate the name of the staff person about whom you are complaining;
- A brief, but complete, description of the facts explaining your situation; and
- Your signature.
- Please send your letter either:
- by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or
- by regular mail to:
Office of Compliance and Enforcement
Legal Services Corporation
3333 K Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
Can I File a Confidential Complaint?
The Legal Services Corporation is governed by the Freedom of Information Act, which means that the substance of your complaint, and maybe your identity, may be disclosed to the public. You may request confidentiality; however, we cannot assure you that your identity may never be discovered. It should be noted that we do seek to resolve complaints in a discreet manner.
If you are not a client or an applicant of the organization, we will ask that you sign a Grant of Authority to give us permission to disclose your identity to the organization as the complainant. If you have published your complaint broadly, say, for example, on a webpage or in a copy of your letter to a newspaper or a member of Congress, we will construe that you do not wish your complaint be maintained in confidence, but we will notify you, prior to contacting the organization.
If you are an applicant for assistance or a client of the organization, we may need to obtain a waiver of the attorney-client privilege, before the organization may disclose all the information it has on your case to LSC. Nevertheless, LSC will seek to maintain this information in high confidence. The LSC regulations provide, for example, that LSC may not disclose income eligibility information provided to it by a recipient of LSC funds.
Finally, it should be noted that filing a complaint is a serious step and any false accusations may result in a civil action being filed by a person who believes he or she has been wrongly accused.