SUBURBAN LEGAL SERVICES: CONSTRAINTS ON POVERTY LAWYERS
Suburban Legal Services resides in a diverse county bordering Metro City. Its population of over 500,000 people is scattered among affluent bedroom communities., old manufacturing towns, and rural farm areas. Nearly 3 percent of its residents earn incomes below the poverty fine and 4 percent are black. A smaller but growing hispanic population also resides in the county.
Inequalities of income and living conditions, quite visible to me during field visits, characterize Suburban County. Its per capita income of over $6,000 ranks it among the wealthiest in this state, but pockets of extreme poverty exist throughout the county.
Interviews conducted with a wide range of people holding various positions in the county indicated a local political system governed by a small number of interlocking elites. The major actors in county politics are leaders of the Republican Party, leaders of the local legal community, and the Republican county commissioners. 1
Suburban County's politics are dominated by a Republican Party machine,, reminiscent of the most effective urban machines in its nearly total control over local political life. The Republican Party's hegemony in Suburban County has not been challenged successfully since the late 1800s, so for the past century it has exerted tremendous control over the county's political agenda and its public sector jobs. In describing the Republican Party's power in Suburban County, the leader of the county's Democratic Party remarked: "The Republican Party just has had no serious opposition since I can re-