December 22, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is pleased that Judge Frederic Block's opinion issued on December 20, 2004 in Dobbins v LSC upheld the constitutionality of Congress' determination not to fund participation in class actions, client solicitation, or claims for the collection of attorney's fees by staff of LSC-funded programs. This decision affirmed Congress' right to determine how federal legal aid dollars are spent.
LSC disagrees with Judge Block's decision as it relates to LSC's application of its program integrity regulation to three plaintiffs in New York who receive LSC funding. This regulation was developed to implement Congress' prohibition on the use of federal funds to subsidize restricted activities, while simultaneously granting lawyers latitude to exercise their First Amendment rights when not working on LSC time or in LSC facilities. In his decision, Judge Block agrees that "some degree of separate physical premises [between LSC programs and affiliate organizations] is justified" but calls into question LSC's application of its program integrity regulation.
Since 1996, Congress has made clear its desire that federally funded legal aid programs focus on the delivery of basic civil legal services to individual clients with urgent legal needs. LSC takes seriously its obligation to fully defend and implement congressional mandates, and while only one issue in theDobbins case was decided in favor of the plaintiffs, it is an important one. Therefore, LSC expects to appeal the court's resolution of that issue to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Established by Congress in 1974, LSC promotes equal access to the system of justice and improves opportunities for low-income people throughout the United States by making grants for the provision of high-quality civil legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford legal counsel.