. . . And a Law for Poor People

Peter Edelman, a professor of law at Georgetown Law Center and chair of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, writes of the need to lift the federal legal services restrictions, a "de facto violation of equal protection."

July 15, 2009
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"Federally funded legal services lawyers for poor people have been
operating with one hand tied behind their back since Newt Gingrich and
his brand of Republicans took control of Congress in the mid-1990s. Now
that we have a Democratic president and Congress, it is time to roll
back the restrictions that federal money brings--constraints that
lawyers for paying clients do not encounter. In his detailed budget
request for the coming year, President Obama proposes to repeal the most
onerous of the strictures--a welcome step. Congress is currently
considering the president's proposals, and should enact them into law . . . .
Although we shouldn't overestimate the payoff from repealing the
restrictions on the federally funded lawyers, it is significant.
President Obama's proposals are important and should be enacted. The
restrictions are meanspirited and punitive; they amount to a de facto
violation of equal protection of the laws for low-income people. Hire a
private lawyer and you'll get the whole kit of tools and remedies. But
go to the legal services office, and you'll quickly find out that
America thinks the poor are not as deserving as the rest of us." 
Peter Edelman is a professor of law at Georgetown Law Center and chair of the District of Columbia Access to Justice Commission.