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April 18 Argument In First Amendment Lawsuit Challenging Federal Restriction on Legal Aid Programs

April 16, 2003

For Immediate Release
April 16, 2003

Contact Information:
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6736

April 18 Argument in First Amendment Lawsuit Challenging Federal Restriction on Legal Aid Programs


Arguing for the plaintiffs: Burt Neuborne, Legal Director, Brennan Center for Justice; David Udell, Poverty Program Director, Brennan Center for Justice


Argument in Dobbins v. Legal Services Corporation, a challenge to a federal law restricting civil legal aid for people who cannot afford a private attorney. The challenged law forbids Legal Services of New York City (LSNY) and other programs funded by Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to engage in certain basic legal representation on behalf of their clients, such as class actions and suits claiming attorneys fee awards. The 1996 law leaves the most vulnerable Americans without legal recourse when they are wronged.

The Brennan Center will focus its argument against a devastating “super-restriction” which stipulates that when a legal aid office receives funds from LSC, it is then prevented from using any other private contributions to pay for the full range of legal work required by its clients. This federal law violates the First Amendment rights of not only the legal aid programs and their low-income clients, but also of donors to those programs, such as the New York Foundation, a plaintiff in the suit. Other plaintiffs include LSNY and other legal aid programs, and several members of three of New Yorks most prestigious law firms.

Dobbins v. Legal Services Corporation is proceeding alongside Velazquez v. Legal Services Corporation. In February 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court decided a portion of Velazquez when it struck down as unconstitutional a federal law barring LSC-funded lawyers from challenging welfare reform laws.


United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York
225 Cadman Plaza East
New York, NY
Courtroom of Judge Block


Friday, April 18, 2003
11:00 a.m.

To obtain copies of the Brennan Centers court filings or for more information, please call Amanda Cooper at 212 998–6736. Further information on the case can also be found on our Dobbins page.