For Immediate Release
September 27, 20000
Jobina Jones, 212 998–6282
Amanda Cooper, 212 998–6736
Media Advisory: U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Legal Services Restrictions in Legal Services Corporation v. Velazquez
Congressional Restrictions on Legal Services Clients and Lawyers Said to Violate First Amendment
What: The United States Supreme Court will hear a constitutional challenge to a federal law that prohibits Legal Services lawyers from pointing out legal defects in welfare laws when representing poor clients seeking welfare benefits.
Who: Burt Neuborne, Legal Director of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, will argue on behalf of a coalition that includes an indigent Legal Services client, Legal Services lawyers, New York City elected officials, and others.
Where: United States Supreme Court
1 First Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20543
When: Wednesday, October 4, 2000 10:00 am
At Issue: The Court will decide whether the U.S. Congress violated the First Amendment when it authorized Legal Services lawyers to represent the poor and then barred them from making certain legal arguments for their clients. Specifically, the Court will address whether Congress discriminated against the poor by prohibiting their government-funded lawyers from challenging welfare reform laws.
Background: In 1996, Congress imposed numerous restrictions on lawyers funded by the nation’s Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to represent low-income individuals and families in civil legal matters. One of these restrictions prohibits LSC-funded lawyers from challenging welfare reform laws, even though these lawyers routinely represent clients in appeals of decisions that deny welfare benefits and, in so doing, ordinarily would be expected to point out any legal defects in the applicable welfare laws.
On April 6, 2000, the Supreme Court decided to hear whether this ban on challenging welfare reform laws violates the First Amendment. The Supreme Court did not decide whether to consider plaintiffs’ challenge to the other restrictions imposed by Congress on advocacy by LSC-funded lawyers.
Experts: Burt Neuborne, Legal Director of the Brennan Center.
E. Joshua Rosenkranz, President and CEO of the Brennan Center.
David Udell, Director of the Brennan Center’s Poverty Program,
and former Legal Services Attorney.
To reach members of the legal team for comment, contact the Brennan Center at 212.998.6282.
Click here for additional information about the case.
Click here to learn more about the Brennan Center’s work to strengthen legal representation for the poor.