1996: Restrictions imposed in 1996 appropriation provisions and continued to date

All restrictions in the LSC Act remain. The 1980s appropriation restrictions were completely replaced by new ones. In the FY96 appropriations legislation, modified slightly by the FY98 appropriations legislation, and incorporated in the FY99 and subsequent appropriations legislation, Congress added many more and made these new restrictions apply to all funds received by a program with LSC funding.

Non-LSC funds: With regard to the 1996 restrictions described below, all of a program’s funds from whatever source (except tribal funds) are restricted. Programs cannot use funds from non-LSC sources to undertake activities that are subject to the restrictions and that cannot be done with LSC funds. However, programs may transfer non-LSC funds to affiliated or entirely separate entities to use for representation in restricted cases.

Restrictions on types of cases

Welfare Reform: Programs cannot engage in litigation on behalf of groups or participate in lobbying or rulemaking involving State or Federal welfare reform initiatives, laws or regulations (unless they fall within the exceptions for lobbying and rulemaking outlined below). However, programs can represent an individual client who is seeking relief from a welfare agency because of threatened adverse action based on a welfare reform law, regulation or policy. As a result of the Supreme Court decision in Legal Services Corporation v. Velazquez, 531 U.S. 533 (2001), legal services programs representing such individuals in cases seeking relief from welfare agencies can now raise all relevant legal issues and can challenge existing statutory law or regulations.

Redistricting: Representation in redistricting cases is prohibited. However, representation in voting rights issues not involving redistricting is permitted.

Abortion: Programs cannot participate in any litigation with regard to abortion.

Drug evictions from public housing: Programs cannot represent persons convicted of, or charged with, drug crimes in public housing evictions when the evictions are based on threats to health or safety of public housing residents or employees.

Assisted suicide, euthanasia and mercy killing: Programs cannot use LSC funds for any activities relating to assisted suicide, euthanasia and mercy killing.

Restrictions on clients that could be represented

Aliens: Programs generally cannot use any funds to represent most undocumented and several other categories of aliens. However, certain legal aliens can be represented using both LSC and non-LSC funds. Specifically:

  1. Lawful permanent resident aliens.
  2. Any alien who is either married to a U.S. citizen, the parent of a U.S. citizen, or an unmarried child under the age of 21 of a U.S. citizen, assuming such alien has filed an application for adjustment of status to permanent residency and such application has not been denied.
  3. Aliens granted asylum.
  4. Aliens granted refugee status.
  5. Aliens granted conditional entrant status.
  6. Aliens granted withholding of deportation.
  7. H-2A nonimmigrant temporary agricultural workers, concerning the worker’s employment contract.
  8. H-2B nonimmigrant forestry workers, concerning the worker’s employment contract.
  9. Victims of human trafficking
  10. Aliens who are victims (or parents of victims) of domestic violence, victims of sexual assault or certain other sexual or violent crimes, when legal assistance is directly related to the prevention of, or obtaining relief from, the violence, assault or criminal activity.

Prisoners: Programs cannot participate in civil litigation on behalf of a person incarcerated in a Federal, State or local prison or participate in administrative proceedings challenging the conditions of incarceration.

Restrictions on representation

Legislative advocacy: Programs are precluded from directly or indirectly attempting to influence pending or proposed legislation. However, programs can use non-LSC funds to respond to a written request for information or testimony from a legislative body or committee, or a member of such body or committee, so long as the response is made only to the parties that made the request and the program does not arrange for the request to be made.
Administrative advocacy: Programs cannot represent clients or client interests before administrative agencies engaged in rulemaking and cannot use LSC funds to respond to requests of administrative officials with regard to rules directly affecting clients. However, programs can use non-LSC funds to:

  1. participate in public comment in a rulemaking proceeding, or
  2. respond to a written request for information or testimony from a government agency, so long as the response is made only to the parties that made the request and the program does not arrange for the request to be made.

Self-help lobbying: Programs are precluded from all self-help lobbying before agencies or legislative bodies, with two exceptions. Programs can use non-LSC funds to affirmatively contact or communicate with State or local legislative or administrative officials with regard to pending or proposed agency proposals or legislation to fund the program. Programs can use non-LSC funds respond to requests of federal, State or local legislative or administrative officials with regard to pending or proposed legislation or agency proposals to fund the program, so long as the response is made only to the parties that made the request and the program does not arrange for the request to be made.

Grass roots lobbying: Programs are prohibited from participating in any grass roots lobbying.

Class actions: Programs cannot initiate, participate or engage in class actions, but can continue certain limited non-adversarial activities in existing class actions and can represent individuals who are members of a class in certain limited circumstances.

Attorneys’ fees: The 2010 consolidated appropriations bill eliminated the statutory restriction on claiming, collecting and retaining attorneys’ fees. Effective March 15, 2010, LSC eliminated the attorneys’ fee regulation (45 CFR 1642) and programs are now permitted to make claims for attorneys’ fees in any case in which they are otherwise legally permitted to make such a claim. Programs are also permitted to collect and retain attorneys’ fees whenever such fees are awarded to them. With the repeal of the restriction, programs are permitted to claim, collect and retain attorneys’ fees with respect to any work they have performed for which fees are available to them, without regard to when the legal work for which fees are claimed or awarded was performed.

Solicitation: Programs are prohibited from representing clients as a result of in-person solicitation. However, programs can operate community legal education programs and engage in outreach activities to client groups, and may represent clients who seek assistance as a result of those activities, but may not affirmatively seek to identify particular individual participants who have specific problems on which they need assistance and advise those particular participants to seek such assistance from the program or another program.

Training: Programs cannot conduct training programs to advocate particular public policies or political activities or to train people to engage in restricted activities.

Client identification: Except in emergency situations, programs are required to identify by name to the defendant any client who is a plaintiff and obtain a signed statement of facts from such plaintiff before the program can file suit or engage in pre-complaint settlement negotiations on the client’s behalf. Access by adverse parties to the written statement of facts is governed by the law and discovery rules of the court in which the action is brought.

Case disclosure: Upon request, programs must disclose to the public and must report semi-annually to LSC certain information about each case that is filed by program attorneys in any court (not administrative agencies). The information includes:

  1. the name and address of each party to the legal action,
  2. the cause of action of the case, and
  3. the name and address of the court in which the case was filed and the case number assigned to the case.

Programs do not need to file name and address information when such information is protected by an order or rule of a court or by a State or Federal law or when revealing such information would put the client of the program at risk of physical harm. This requirement applies only where a program represents a plaintiff in an action; cases where the programs represent defendants or third parties need not be reported.

Restrictions on personal activities of staff attorneys

No new restrictions.

Restrictions on assisted suicide

The Assisted Suicide Funding Restrictions Act of 1997 prohibited the use of LSC funds for any assisted suicide, euthanasia or mercy killing activities.