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The Poor in Court

The Poor in Court: The Legal Services Program and Supreme Court Decision Making

Susan E. Lawrence
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    The Poor in Court
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the Supreme Court as an integral part of the policy-making process, Susan Lawrence examines how a change in who has access to the Court, and the nature of the institutions that structure that access, has affected its agenda setting and doctrinal development. In her analysis of cases sponsored by the Legal Services Program (LSP) before the Supreme Court during the 1966 through 1974 terms, she explores the effect of this agency in creating a voice for the poor in the judicial policy-making process. The Court's response to cases presented by the LSP--as exemplified in its decisions to invalidate residency requirements for welfare recipients (Shapiro v. Thompson, 1969) but uphold maximum family grants (Dandridge v. Williams, 1970)--is described as emerging from a timely combination of new litigant claims, available legal bases, and judicial values and role conceptions, all of which were shaped by the political climate of the era. Lawrence convincingly argues that litigation before the Court is a powerful method of political participation for the disadvantaged.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6146-0
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. CHAPTER ONE Introduction: Access to the U.S. Supreme Court
    (pp. 3-15)

    The U.S. Supreme Court has become an integral part of the national policymaking and implementing process. Unlike Congress and the Presidency, the Court is not officially constrained by electoral accountability. Consequently, we often focus on judicial attitudes, values, and behaviors in explaining judicial outcomes when simple reference to “the law” fails us.² But agenda setting and decision making in the Court, as in Congress and in the executive branch, is also affected by changing patterns of access and participation.³ Agenda setting in the Court, and the resulting development of constitutional and statutory doctrine, are influenced by who has access to...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Philosophies of Legal Assistance and Access to the Courts
    (pp. 16-38)

    American courts function simultaneously as both conflict resolvers and law developers.¹ This duality is paralleled by two attorney roles—client server and reformer. For both courts and attorneys, these dichotomies are actually ends of a continuum; the roles are intertwined, but one can be emphasized over the other. To sketch out the extremes, an attorney can focus on serving the immediate needs of the client outside the courtroom where there is virtually no opportunity to affect law development. Or, at the other end of the continuum, he or she can emphasize reform to such a degree that the titular client...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Appealing to the Supreme Court
    (pp. 39-69)

    Over the last four decades, the Supreme Court’s agenda has increasingly been dominated by civil liberties and civil rights issues; more specifically, by the claims of the politically disadvantaged.¹ Overwhelmingly, the litigants in these cases were among those burdened by the de facto assistance of counsel requirement. Few had the personal resources to mount exhaustive appellate litigation culminating in the Supreme Court on their own and, indeed, most of them did not. Frequently, as noted earlier, these litigants were represented by interest group attorneys who had adopted something approaching a pure version of the reformer role. These groups were pursuing...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Getting on the Court’s Decision Agenda
    (pp. 70-97)

    Although the Supreme Court has a limited ability to shape the parameters of litigant access to its own jurisdictional docket, the Court has enormous discretion in choosing which cases to place on its decision agenda.¹ Between 1966 and 1974, the Court only reviewed about 10 percent of the over thirty thousand cases brought before it. The Court responded to less than 5 percent of all petitions with a written opinion.² Most of the opportunities for decision that litigants present to the Court are never fulfilled. This makes the Court’s “decision- to-decide” a crucial part of its policy-making process. Case selection...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Decision Making in LSP Cases
    (pp. 98-122)

    The Court’s case selection decisions gave Legal Services Program clients access to the Supreme Court’s policy-making agenda. Through the lsp, the poor were enfranchised in the judicial development of national policy. From the perspective of democratic theory, access to the policy-making forum was crucial. From the perspective of the poor clients, prevailing in that forum was crucial. And prevail they did. lsp attorneys secured victories for their clients in 62 percent (74) of the 119 cases the Supreme Court reviewed.¹

    The lsp’s victories, mirroring its cases, defy simple classification. They ranged across a variety of sources, targets, subjects, and constitutional...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The LSP’s Role in the Development of Law
    (pp. 123-147)

    The poor’s participation in Supreme Court policy making significantly affected the development of law during the late 1960s and early 1970s. During the 1966 through 1974 Terms, 7 percent of all written opinions handed down by the High Court were responses to Legal Services Program sponsored cases. These eighty cases most frequently involved due process or equal protection claims, two particularly salient issues in the Court’s jurisprudence during this era. Almost a score questioned the congruence between state policies and federal directives and another dozen involved the interpretation of federal statutes, the Fourth and Sixth Amendments, or the rights of...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion: Litigants, the Court, and Democracy
    (pp. 148-160)

    It was no accident that the Supreme Court entered the national debate on poverty in the 1960s and 1970s. The Legal Services Program’s litigation provided the Court with its first opportunity to address a significant number of the civil claims of the poor. The Court accepted the poor’s invitation, in part, because their cases were buttressed by a history of legal precedents that had left the poor behind, and, in part, because their cases fit with the justices’ shared conceptions of the judicial role. The political climate of the era, the prominence of the debate on the national agenda, encouraged...

  12. APPENDIX A Research Methods
    (pp. 161-165)
  13. APPENDIX B LSP Review and Success Rates by Year, 1966–1974 Terms
    (pp. 166-166)
  14. APPENDIX C Review and Success Rates of Selected Groups before the Supreme Court
    (pp. 167-169)
  15. APPENDIX D LSP Cases Remanded
    (pp. 170-171)
  16. APPENDIX E Agreement Rates between Justices in LSP Cases and the Court’s Entire Docket, 1966–1974 Terms
    (pp. 172-172)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-190)
  18. Table of Cases Cited
    (pp. 191-198)
  19. Index
    (pp. 199-207)