11/12/2003 3:26 PM
THE POLITICS OF EQUAL JUSTICE
inequitable funding schemes for our nation’s public schools27 and the procedural protections offered to students.28 Legal Services lawyers even had to go to the Supreme Court to seek access to the courts for the poor29 and for the right of aliens to hold civil service jobs. 30
From rural California to the Mississippi Delta, to the most impoverished neighborhoods in the nation’s largest cities, legal services attorneys were lawyering for their sole constituency: America’s poor. They were modernizing landlord tenant relations, protecting meager property rights, protecting civil rights, enforcing voting rights, securing access to the nation’s health system for poor children and disabled Americans, and expanding public benefits to protect women, children, the elderly, disabled, and poor immigrants.31 The stunning changes brought about by the poor’s federally funded lawyers generated intense and fierce political opposition in the early 1970s. For politicians like Congressman George Murphy, California Governor Ronald Reagan, President Richard Nixon, and Vice- President Spiro Agnew, federally funded legal services represented something other than equal access to justice—something sinister, anti- American, and anti-democratic. 32 33
27. See San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973) (denying a challenge to Texas’s funding scheme for public school systems which are tied to property tax values and thus result in inequities for children in poorer school districts).
28. See Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975) (generally requiring a notice and a hearing before students are suspended from school).
29. See United States v. Kras, 409 U.S. 434 (1973) (upholding filing fees in bankruptcies); Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371 (1971) (striking down filing fees in divorce actions).
30. See Sugarman v. Dougall, 413 U.S. 634 (1973) (holding a New York civil service law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendments’ equal protection guarantee in that it only allowed citizens to hold permanent positions in the competitive class of the state civil service).
31. See, e.g., Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div. v. Croft, 436 U.S. 1 (1978); Shea v. Vialpando, 416 U.S. 251 (1974); Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972) (due process in seizure of property); James v. Valtierra, 402 U.S. 137 (1971) (upholding a referendum approval for construction of low income housing); Thorpe v. Hous. Auth. of the City of Durham, 386 U.S. 670 (1967) (public housing due process rights); Morris v. Williams, 433 P.2d 697 (Cal. 1967); Javins v. First Nat’l Realty Corp., 428 F.2d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 1970) (creating implied warranty of habitability in lease agreements).
32. See Quigley, supra note 13, at 253 (describing the restrictions placed on legal services in the 1970s); see also Spiro T. Agnew, What’s Wrong With The Legal Services Program, 58 A.B.A. J. 930, 930-32 (1972) (arguing that the legal services program had gone beyond a federally funded program providing legal services and become an effort to “redistribute societal advantages aid disadvantages, penalties and rewards, rights and resources”).
33. See Quigley, supra note 13, at 248-49 (detailing the conflict over providing legal services to the poor under the law reform efforts of the Legal Services Program (“LSP”)).