In 1985, the support structure consisted of the following:
- 17 national support centers,
- state support centers or units in each state,
- 5 Regional Training Centers,
- 6 computer assisted legal research projects, and
- the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, which published the Clearinghouse Review
LSC board attempts to defund certain support components
Between 1985 and 1996, the support structure came under continuing but unsuccessful attack from critics of legal services and some members of the board of LSC. These critics saw the support structure as the engine that drove legal service into class actions, major litigation, legislative and administrative advocacy. They believed the support structure as the glue that held together a coordinated, cohesive advocacy network to challenge the status quo. In September 1987, the LSC board voted to request that Congress not provide funds for national and state support, regional training centers, computer assisted legal research projects and the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services.
Congress rejected this proposal, and, indeed, became very irritated at the LSC board for making such a proposal. Congress acted to protect support as well as other components of the legal services delivery system under attack (e.g., migrant and Native American programs), Led by Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH), the FY 1987 appropriation for LSC specifically earmarked funding for support components. For example, Public Law 99-500, (October 18, 1986), the FY 1987 appropriation of $305,500,000 for LSC provided: $623,964 for regional training centers; $7,528,218 for national support; $7,842,866 for state support; $865,000 for the Clearinghouse; and $510,444 for computer assisted legal research grants. This earmarking continued until the FY 1996 appropriation.
LSC’s board attempted to defund several national support centers (e.g., Migrant Legal Action Program, National Center for Youth Law). The board’s only success was defunding the National Social Science & Law Project located in Washington, D.C. All of the other 16 remained funded until FY 1996. Similarly, no state support center was defunded, although the board unsuccessfully attempted to defund the Western Center on Law and Poverty because of its advocacy activities around a California election proposition on tax limits (Proposition 13).
Support entities carry on
LSC remained hostile or indifferent until the Clinton-appointed LSC board took over in 1993. Meanwhile, the support entities themselves, working with NLADA, continued to focus on support and to build cohesive state and national networks of advocates.
Throughout the 1980s, numerous LSC studies attempted to examine support but none were successful in eliminating it. Two non-LSC studies were done on state support. The Management Project of NLADA commissioned a paper on state support completed by Erica Black Grubb in November 1983, The Role of State Support in Delivering High Quality, Cost-Effective Legal Services to Low Income Clients. The National Organization of State Support Units did a subsequent study in 1991 entitled The Challenge of Leadership: Providing State Support Services in the 1990s. A shorter version of the report was included in an article by Daniel M. Taubman, “The Role of State Support Centers in the 1990s and Beyond,” 25 Clearinghouse Rev. 75 (Special Issue 1992).
During this period, NLADA organized a number of conferences for state support staff to help state support build on successful initiatives among the various states and improve state level advocacy. Regional training centers met periodically to improve training and learn from each other. National support centers gathered at national NLADA conferences to share experiences and successful activities.