Legal Aid Resists Being Reined in, Meese Testifies; Congress Ordered Political Reforms

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Legal Aid Resists Being Reined in, Meese Testifies; Congress Ordered Political Reforms


Byline: Amy Fagan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Legal Services Corp. has failed to curb its political activities as Congress demanded six years ago, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III said yesterday in testimony at an oversight hearing.

The publicly funded agency that distributes grant money for the legal defense of poor Americans has not increased competition among its local grant recipients and has disregarded Congress' prohibition of its involvement in class-action lawsuits, Mr. Meese told the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law.

Mr. Meese currently heads the center for legal and judicial studies at the Heritage Foundation.

LSC spokesman Eric Kleiman said competition has indeed increased and that the LSC "will not allow any group receiving LSC funding to participate in a class-action lawsuit."

"I think there have been some good changes made, but some real problems persist," said Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican, who called the hearing as chairman of the subcommittee.

President Bush is expected to announce replacements to the current Clinton-era LSC board members soon, and Mr. Barr wants to ensure the White House will "get people on that board that really take these reforms seriously."

Created in 1974, the LSC gives grants to local organizations that provide legal services to poor Americans. But Republicans complained for years that LSC pursues liberal political causes through its lawsuits - prompting Congress to enact reforms in 1996 intended to restrict LSC's political activities.

Mr. Meese said the LSC continues to allow its grantees to take cases of aliens who are not physically present in the United States, even though Congress prohibited such action.

The LSC convened a commission to examine the issue, Mr. …

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