Boehm Predicts Resurgence of Legal Services Abuses if Reforms Are Gutted

Boehm testifying photoAt a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm was the lone witness opposed to reauthorization of the taxpayer-funded Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The April 27 hearing was chaired by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who favors the reauthorization bill that increases the LSC budget to $750 million and strips out important reforms instituted in 1996.

Boehm warned that the reauthorization would mean a new round of problems for the scandal-plagued program. LSC funds a network of lawyers in dozens of communities to provide civil (not criminal) day-to-day legal help to poor people. Many LSC-funded lawyers spend their time on left-wing political and social causes, instead of helping the poor. Click here to download a 14-page pdf of Boehm’s testimony.

Because of controversy, LSC has not been reauthorized since 1977. A series of reforms were instituted in 1996 as appropriations riders to combat the politicization of the program.  The proposed reauthorization is in the form of H.R. 3764, the so-called “Civil Access to Justice Act of 2009.”

From Boehm’s testimony:

We don’t have to wonder why legal services attorneys and their allies want to strip out the reforms that prevented them from doing prisoner litigation, stopping drug-related evictions, lobbying for favored legislation, engaging in ideological class actions, and a host of other controversial activities.

They advocate removing the restrictions from those types of cases because those are the cases they want to bring.  And will bring if they get their way.

The witness list for the hearing appears below.

Panel I

Hon. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
U.S. House of Representatives
3rd District, VA

Hon. Tom Harkin
U.S. Senate

Panel II

John G. Levi
Chairman, Board of Directors
Legal Services Corporation
Washington, DC

Jeffrey E. Schanz
Inspector General
Legal Services Corporation
Washington, DC

Kenneth F. Boehm
National Legal and Policy Center
Falls Church, VA

Rebekah Diller
Deputy Director, Justice Program
Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law
New York, NY