Statutory Restrictions on LSC-funded Programs

Statutory Restrictions on LSC-funded Programs

The Legal Services Corporation Act (42 U.S.C. § 2996 et seq.) stipulates that LSC-funded programs cannot use either LSC or private funds for certain activities. The 1996 Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 104-134) and subsequent legislation introduced new restrictions that apply to funds from all sources—federal, state, local, and private—except tribal funds.


The LSC Act prohibits participation in:

  • Political activities, including voter assistance or voter registration.
  • Criminal cases, except for minor offenses in Indian tribal courts.
  • Habeas corpus actions challenging criminal convictions against officers of the court or law enforcement officers.
  • Organizing activities, including training for—or encouraging of—political or labor activities.
  • Proceedings or litigation to procure non-therapeutic abortions or compel the provision of abortion services over religious or moral objections.
  • Proceedings involving desegregation of public schools, military service or assisted suicide.


In 1996, Congress prohibited additional activities, including:   

  • Lobbying government offices, agencies or legislative bodies except for limited situations.
  • Representing people who are not U.S. citizens with limited exceptions such as lawful permanent residents, H2A agricultural workers, and victims of battering, extreme cruelty, sexual assault or trafficking.
  • Class actions.
  • Soliciting clients in-person. 
  • Abortion-related litigation of any kind.
  • Representing prisoners.
  • Representing people who are being evicted from public housing because they face criminal charges of selling or distributing illegal drugs.   
  • Most activities involving welfare reform.
  • Redistricting activities.
  • Influencing the time or manner of census-taking.


In the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Pub. L. 111-117), Congress removed the 1996 restrictions on the ability of LSC grantees to claim, collect or retain attorneys’ fees.