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Justice and Reform

Justice and Reform: The Formative Years of the OEO Legal Services Program

Earl Johnson
Copyright Date: 1974
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Justice and Reform
    Book Description:

    Justice and Reformis the first study of the origins, philosophy, creation, management, and impact of the Office of Economic Opportunity Legal Services Program. As such, it clearly and concisely describes the Program's role both as an instrument of equal justice and as a strategy for overcoming poverty. Timely, important, and unique, it tells the story behind the OEO Legal Services Program-an endeavor that has been called both the most successful element of the war on poverty and the most stimulating development to occur in the American legal profession during the Twentieth Century.

    The early chapters in the book reveal the nature and motivations of the two groups which joined to create the Program: the conservative, American Bar Association sponsored 89-year-old legal aid movement and the Ford Foundation-financed neighborhood lawyer experiments that started in 1962 under the direction of young activist lawyers. Why they merged and how they merged forms the background for a description of how the partners persuaded the OEO bureaucracy to start a legal services program and convinced over 200 communities (including most large cities) to set up a federally funded legal assistance agency.

    Legal Services Program established policy, how it settled upon "law reform" as the priority function of the Program, how it preserved the integrity of its policies within OEO, and how it caused its grantees to engage in law reform. Chapter 8 evaluates, for the first time, the economic, political, and social impact of the Program as of 1972. The final chapter speculates on the future of government-subsidized legal assistance in the United States from the perspective of the OEO program's twin goals of equal justice and social reform.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-654-9
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Earl Johnson Jr.

    • 1: The Legal Aid Movement and the Goal of Equal Justice
      (pp. 3-20)

      This is a book about a political invention of the mid-twentieth century—the Legal Services Program of the United States Office of Economic Opportunity. But, in a real sense, this invention owes much to concepts incorporated into the philosophy of Anglo-American society during the mid-thirteenth to mid-fifteenth centuries.

      From the pledge of theMagna Carta, “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice,”² extracted out of King John in 1215, early English justice evolved a principle that free counsel should be provided to litigants too poor to employ their own.³ This...

    • 2: The Neighborhood Lawyer Experiments and the Goal(s) of Social Reform
      (pp. 21-36)

      The OEO Legal Services Program was woven out of many threads. Although legal aid formed the gray central core, the strands of color and texture that made the new program unique were spun by men and women unconnected with the legal aid movement during an unusually creative period in the early 1960s.

      The first of the new initiatives originated with some foundation executives in New York City. In the early 1960s, a former government administrator, William Pincus, was responsible for grants related to the law at the Ford Foundation. His early interests were in the fields of legal education and...


    • 3: Birth of the Federal Program
      (pp. 39-70)

      By the end of 1964, there were two legal assistance movements in the United States. One was almost 89 years old, a child—or at least step-child—of the American Bar Association, charitably financed at a level of about $4 million a year, led by middle-aged establishment lawyers, and concerned solely with the goal of equal justice. The other movement was two years old, unaffiliated with the organized bar, financed by the Ford Foundation and the Federal government at about half a million dollars, conceived and led by youthful lawyer-politicians and dedicated to some vaguely conceived goal of social reform....

    • 4: Development of Local Legal Services Organizations
      (pp. 71-102)

      In an 18-month period—from January 1, 1966 through June 30, 1967—the nation’s investment in legal assistance for the poor was increased eightfold over the level it had taken the legal aid movement 90 years to reach. During those 18 months, 300 Legal Services organizations—many of them new—were given OEO grants. An annual total budget level of $42 million was reached. Over 800 new law offices and almost 2000 new lawyers were funded. By the conclusion of this burst of activity, OEO had constructed a system of law offices and lawyers about the size of the United...


    • 5: The Policy-Making Process in the Legal Services Program
      (pp. 105-134)

      The Economic Opportunity Act—the statutory framework of the war on poverty—afforded broad discretionary powers to the administration of the Office of Economic Opportunity. The OEO could provide or withhold financial assistance to local antipoverty organizations on almost any basis it desired. Although inherently limited in its ability to determine grantee performance,¹ OEO certainly could shape their promises. It could choose to favor certain poverty cures and program features and deny financial aid to others; it was in a position to set minimum standards and establish high goals. But this power was seldom employed. For the most part, OEO...

    • 6: “Up the Bureaucracy”: Preserving Policy and Program Integrity within the OEO Administration
      (pp. 135-162)

      Whenever a new program is undertaken by a government agency, you can be assured a power struggle will not be far behind. Legal Services was no exception. While the program was still but a dream, its place within the bureaucracy already was a topic of prime concern to many OEO officials. In this case, the ultimate structure soon became an issue of relevance not only to OEO but also to the American Bar Association and the lawyers serving in local Legal Services projects.

      As discussed previously, the OEO Legal Services Program was derived in part from the experiments with neighborhood...

    • 7: Implementing National Goals: Affecting the Management of Local Organizations
      (pp. 163-184)

      Distributing grants has become the way of doing business for the Federal government. In earlier days, when Congress desired to provide some service or product to the nation’s citizens, it usually established a Federal agency staffed entirely by Federal employees to dispense that service or to create that product. The nation’s mail is delivered by Federal employees. Its social security checks are issued by Federal employees. Its parks are patrolled by Federal employees.

      But beginning on a substantial basis in the 1950s, the national government has shifted more and more away from direct operation of its programs. Instead of hiring...


    • 8: The First Seven Years: Testing the Potential of Legal Services to the Poor
      (pp. 187-234)

      One yardstick for measuring the success of a governmental program is how well it satisfies the express goals of its basic constituencies. For the Legal Services Program, the original constituencies were prominent lawyers supporting the legal aid movement and the reformers who created the neighborhood lawyer experiments. The former sought the expansion of due process justice. A lawyer for every poor person with a legal problem is probably a fair characterization of their ultimate goal.¹ The architects of the neighborhood lawyer programs on the other hand, for all their differences over ends and means,² were united in their commitment to...

    • 9: Toward Justice and Reform
      (pp. 235-284)

      The OEO Legal Services Program was not an end in itself. Properly conceived, any such government institution is merely a vehicle for realizing one or more societal goals. Thus, in looking to the future, it is not the OEO Legal Services Program itself that merits attention, but the accomplishment of the fundamental objectives that gave birth to the program.

      In earlier chapters passing reference was made that the demand for legal representation in the low-income sector far outstrips available resources. A University of Denver study used panels of attorneys to review reports of interviews with citizens of a poverty neighborhood,...

  8. Appendix I: Comparative Statistical Data
    (pp. 285-294)
  9. Appendix II: Analysis of Clearinghouse Review
    (pp. 295-296)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 297-388)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 389-402)
  12. Index
    (pp. 403-416)