Steve Gottlieb oral history 1991

Worked for Atlanta Legal Aid and Georgia Legal Services

Oral history details

Storyteller: Steve Gottlieb
Interviewer: Gipson, Leanna Hart
Date of interview: Jul 22, 1991
Where relates to: Georgia
Topics: Civil legal aid: General
Law type: Civil
Collection: NEJL
Georgetown Law Library link (possible video): http://hdl.handle.net/10822/711845
Length: 0:55:42

Full text of transcript

Download PDF: Transcript

Note: The last few minutes of the interview are missing.

Georgetown University Law Center
National Equal Justice Library
Oral History Collection
Interview with: Steve Gottlieb
Conducted by: Leanna Hart Gipson
Interview date: July 22, 1991

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Taken on July 22, 1991 at the Don CeSar in St. Petersburg, Florida. Leanna Hart Gipson is conducting the interview. The topics of the interview will be the development of the fundraising center. Steve, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background before you became involved in legal services?

Steven Gottlieb:
Fine. I kind of almost became involved in legal services accidentally. I was going to law school and saw a letter up on the bulletin board of the University of Pennsylvania Law School from the director of the Altanta Legal Aid Society. This was in 1968. And he said he wanted to do some exciting people with Ivy League law students. And so, that was for summer job. And that’s what I did. And just decided I was going to make an exciting change in my life. And I got captured by Atlanta and by legal services. Ironically, I think it was not that “I thought I could make a change,” but the irony was, I think that it wasn’t that so much needed to be done as much as I felt comfortable doing what I was doing. It wasn’t so much that there were these horrible people out there, but rather I felt comfortable dealing with the people in the program and so forth. And that’s kept me for these years.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What kind of things captured you?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, I think actually the thing that captured me was more the people than legal services and their — the camaraderie and the spirit and to some extent the commitment. And it was just a summer experience where I really felt part of an organization with a higher purpose.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What kind of things do you think were going on in the 50’s and 60’s in your life that led you towards legal services?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, I don’t think I was unique or even that unusual in the sense that I came from a liberal Jewish background, which led me to think that my responsibility was to do something in the world and to treat people equally and that kind of stuff. And I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but it was inbred. And so, it led me to think that I ought to do something rather than just kind of doing ordinary work — that there was something special that I ought to be doing.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
You talked a little bit about your summer job. What was your first job after law school?

Steven Gottlieb:
The irony was that — I’ve used that word twice — the irony of that was that the program had changed by the time I had gotten back from the summer and till — when I got back as a regular attorney. And the — some of the magic actually was gone. As a summer student we had all these new summer students coming in from all over the place, and it was this unique new experience. And, when I had gotten back, the director, who had this great flare for hiring new people and so forth, also had this great flare for getting everybody upset with him. And so, the program had kind of gotten into camps by the time I had gotten back in 1969. And turned out to be a rift in the program pretty much after that. But we were — that kind of — I was independent for that a little, because we were in our own little enclave out in the northwest part of the — of Atlanta. And at that point, that was pretty isolated. So we had our own little office, and we ignored everybody else. But it was different between ’68 and ’69.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Who else was in that office with you?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, Vic was in the office.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Vic?

Steven Gottlieb:
Geminiani. And he came a couple of months after I started. And it was a very interesting, eventful kind of beginning, because he resented — well, he had gone to Villanova Law School and I had gone to the University of Pennsylvania and they were both in Philadelphia. And there was a natural kind of feeling that he had that people thought of his Villanova as kind of second rate. And there were these University of Pennsylvania Ivy League, you know? And then to top that off, he — I came as Reginald Heber Smith fellow and he came as a Vista. And so, it kind of accentuated that difference. So we started off on a little bit of the wrong foot. And then after that kind of developed our relationship. Vic and I, over the years, have been very different but have been able to deal with one another despite those differences and, to some extent, I think, work well because of the differences. I’m much more laid back, and I’m much more theoretical than Vic is. And he’s much more action-oriented. And we’ve always been able to keep ourselves from getting to a critical mass and then produce things. There were two other people in the office, by the way — not to focus entirely on Vic, although he obviously deserves part of this oral history. We had a lawyer who had started about six months before I had who was still with the program. He’s 22-year veteran in Atlanta Legal Aid Society. In fact, during all the funding cutbacks, he was talking about the fact that — this was in the early 80’s — he was talking about how, if they were going to shut down the program, that he was going to be the one to walk out and turn off the lights. And he’s still around. And then we had another lawyer who was the manager of the office, a black guy who went to Harvard who ended up becoming a traffic court judge and has done very well. So it was a pretty good office.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Now there came a point when you moved from Atlanta Legal Aid to Georgia Legal Services. How — what was happening?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, it was interesting. That was — I was approached by the director of the Georgia Legal Services program about the fact that they had a managing attorney position in the office in the office in Savannah. And —

Leanna Hart Gipson:
About what year was this?

Steven Gottlieb:
’74. And couldn’t make up my mind to do that. The idea of moving to Savannah after having been in Atlanta was difficult for a couple of reasons. One, because I felt like Atlanta — where you move when you get out of school becomes your home, I think, if you don’t have roots in other places. And so, it was hard. But the irony, again, was that Vic ran another stream into my life. Vic had left Atlanta and came back and decided he was going to come back from either western Massachusetts or New York City — I keep, I have trouble with Vic’s travels — and was going to run the Macon office. And that pretty much convinced me that Vic was going to run the Macon office; I was going to run the Savannah office. So, for a period of time, we both stayed in Georgia Legal Services.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
And who was the director at Georgia Legal Services?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, the person who had actually called me was not the director that I ended up taking the job from. Greg Dellaire was the person that I ended up taking the job from and went through the travails that Greg went through with Georgia Legal Services, which was in itself a very interesting experience.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What pulled you back to Atlanta Legal Aid?

Steven Gottlieb:
I had gotten a call from the director, who was somebody I had known for years, who —

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Is this the same director that had initially brought you —

Steven Gottlieb:
No, in fact, it was three directors — two directors later. The director who had originally contacted me lasted about a year and a half. It’s the nature of those kind of people. And then there was another director. And then someone else came. And the person who contacted me was actually a contemporary of mine who started in 1969, same Reggie class. He wanted — he had just become director, and he wanted a deputy director. And so, he offered me the job, and I decided not to do it for a while. And then decided really that basically Atlanta was where I ought to be, because I had never gotten out of the idea that Atlanta and Atlanta Legal Aid was really home.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
So you then became the deputy director there.

Steven Gottlieb:
Right. Mm-hmm.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
And how long then was it before you became the director?

Steven Gottlieb:
I started in ’77. And then he left in 1980. So I stayed there for three years as deputy director.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What kind of funding sources did you have when you — when you first became director?

Steven Gottlieb:
We had a fairly good, solid base of diversity when I started. We had — we were one of the few programs that had community development block grant money, because Ravi — the previous director — had established that. We had had an ongoing senior citizens law project for a while. Ravi had also started that. So we had a number of federal funds. We had a history of, for that time, being pretty successful in that kind of thing. We didn’t only depend upon Legal Services Corporation.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What kind of strategies did you have around fundraising?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, when I first started, I really didn’t think all that much about it. I wanted to make sure that I continued what he had done. And I was kind of concerned that I didn’t know the people and I hadn’t done it myself. So I really didn’t have any great strategies about it. I don’t know that I thought about it all that much except to maintain where I was, and to know that it was good that we didn’t only depend on the Legal Services Corporation. That I knew instinctually, I think, from the beginning.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
How did things change?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, the one thing that was really a dramatic change is that, when — in the early 80’s, when the Legal Services Corporation was changing over, Vic was in the regional office and wanted to try to get people to diversify their funding and called me up — in fact on a Sunday afternoon — and said, “How would you like a $60,000 grant to do a fundraising project?” And I have never been known to turn down money. I guess that’s the mark of a good fundraiser. And I said, “Sure.” Or I said, “Let’s talk about it a little bit more.” And he had already secured this money. In fact, the story goes — and we will find — maybe we ought to interview Vic to make sure — but that he had offered another program the grant and they had turned it down and I didn’t. And we started talking about a project. And basically, it was going to be a project where we were going to have a person working at both the regional office and Atlanta Legal Aid to demonstrate that you could have a model for fundraising in the Southeast.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
So this was to be a particularly — pretty much a Southeast center?

Steven Gottlieb:
Yeah. The thought was that we would — Vic was its regional director at the time. And the thought was that we would get — use Atlanta Legal Aid’s experience as a model to show other programs in the Southeast that — that indeed you could diversify your funding. Again, all of this was coming up in the context of — it was in 1980, or ’81, and it was all in the context of worrying that LSC funding was going to be either severely cut back or maybe even eliminated.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
How have your strategies around fundraising changed from when you first took that grant to today?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well —

Leanna Hart Gipson:
So what lessons have you —

Steven Gottlieb:
It’s a — it has been a long process. What I realized, I think, as things have gone on, is that there are lots of good reasons to do something more than just get LSC grants — and, for that matter, to get more than just government grants. Because the whole focus of that project was to do private fundraising, as it still is. And the value of it is that it has taught me that we — there’s a way of integrating yourself in the community in a way that I never understood. It is interesting, because I was very lucky about my job — I mean, I didn’t have to go to Atlanta. And I went to Atlanta and inherited a program which had a history, which is pretty unusual for the country. I mean, there are a number of programs that are that old and a number of programs that have that kind of association with the private bar. But it certainly isn’t common. It’s certainly not common in the Southeast. Most of the programs in the Southeast were programs that were started with OEO and expansion money and stuff. But Atlanta Legal Aid has a whole history.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Tell me a little more about that history.

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, the program was founded in 1924 by a group up of younger lawyers at that time who went on — all of them, practically — to found major law firms in the city. Or who became — couple of them ended up general counsels of Coca-Cola. One of them ended up a Supreme Court justice. You can trace one year in 19– at the 60th — no, it wasn’t at the 60th; I think it was at the 70th anniversary. We were able to track every major law firm to one of the founders of the people who had signed the document founding of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. And what we did is, we did up a fancy document with all the names of the incorporators. So we had a long history of having folks who were supportive of the program. And so, the bar owned the program — or the private lawyers owned the program from the very beginning. And, as I said, it was — I didn’t know that I had walked into that kind of history. But that’s the same kind of history which led us to be able to fundraise. But, by the same token, it’s the kind of history you create by fundraising. That’s the interesting kind of way that works. The — what — I guess the one thing I’ve said the most — feel like you’re repeating yourself, but for tape you’re not, I guess. The thing that I’ve said the most to people about fundraising is that it’s very strange how you think you have to develop some support in the community in order to fundraise. But it works the opposite. You develop the support by fundraising. And it didn’t make any sense to me that that would happen, but it does. Because you have a situation where you get — you commit — get a number of people committed to raise money for you. And, when they raise money for you, they put themselves on the line with other people. And, as — it’s probably obvious, but it took me personal experience to find out. That is the best way to convince people — to have other people who they trust tell them that you do a good job. You can give them caseload statistics, you can give them examples, you can do anything you want, but the fact that somebody’s close friend in another law firm, somebody’s peer says to him, “This is a good organization. This is what you ought to be supporting.” That’s what convinces people. Because we don’t have enough time, I think, to really get into the details and the minutia of really knowing whether somebody does a good job. So you take people’s word for it. And the people’s word for that you take are the people you trust. It’s a very interesting process.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Was the center an immediate success?

Steven Gottlieb:
No. In fact, funny part was that we interviewed two people — well, step back — as you might expect, whether something works or not depends upon the people you get. And we interviewed two people, neither of whom accepted the job. So we had to re-advertise and re-interview. And we had two people to choose from — one of whom was a kind of a 60’s radical person who had done a lot of fundraising. And another whom was a woman who had worked for the — a prisoner’s project. Had not really much fundraising experience. Was just out of school. And had instinctively the right personality. And Guy Lescault, who interviewed with me at the time, and I both decided that we picked the person with the least experience who just seemed right. And she just turned out to be a perfect person. And, to this day, I think there are a lot of people in the Southeast who still remember Lisa. She went around to various programs and did a lot of hands-on kind of teaching to people. But it was the right person at the right time.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What are the two or three best pieces of advice about fundraising that you have for folks? I mean, you mentioned the — one of the big lessons that you learned. Is there any other advice that you have?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, since we don’t have enough time, I won’t give you my ten — the top-ten list of fundraising. That has become a tradition with me. On the back of a letter — I’m invited to these fundraising sessions to break the ice to tell directors how “Yes, indeed you can do it too, and I was worried about it.” And then I give them the top ten. And I — two years ago I started writing it on the back of an envelope, and I continued to do that. But I don’t remember my top ten. But other pieces of advice. One is that — one thing that struck me as very odd is that — at least in fundraising with a private partner, one of the things that captures private bar folks is when you talk about salaries. I never would have guessed that. I was very hesitant to begin with. You’ve probably heard me say this — it’s one of the ones on my list. But tentatively in probably ’83 or ’84 in our first couple of years of doing a private bar annual campaign, the — I mentioned something about salaries. And lawyers — I mean, the lawyers in the room reacted to statistics. They reacted to bad cases. They reacted to all kinds of things. But the most — the most immediate and the most enduring reaction has been about lawyer salaries. At least in Atlanta — and I think probably in most places — our salaries are so out of whack with the private bar that it becomes a dramatic thing for them. And we are not out of whack with what we think of for our own minds, because we have this expectation that we ought to work for nothing, which is why I didn’t want to mention it to begin with — but they don’t. And they understand that it’s ridiculous to start lawyers at — when we first started, we were starting lawyers at $14,500 in 1983. And that really was a surprise for me, to the extent where I always recommend that people not be shy about talking about salaries. The other thing to think about, I think, if I had to choose one another thing to talk about — and this is not in the private bar context, but maybe an indication of why it’s important to raise money with the private bar — one of the dangers of focusing on fundraising is that you can take yourself away from what your mission is. It’s so easy to look to what people want you to do that you end up not doing what you think you ought to be doing. And, of course, what you learn is that, if you go to a funding source and they say, “Okay. We’ll pay you to do this kind of job handling worker’s comp cases,” which is not quite in your realm of priorities. Then, not only will it divert you from handling regular cases, but it’ll also — they won’t pay you enough to handle the worker’s comp cases. So not only have you focused some energy on getting into an area which you didn’t want to get in to begin with, but you’ve actually taken some of your regular money and focused it on an area which you didn’t want to get into to begin with. So you’ve kind of been self-defeating. So the danger in fundraising is always that you’re going to be sucked away from what you want to do by somebody else’s want, which is why, again, the private bar campaign is so important, because they don’t attach those kinds of strings usually with that money.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What are your memories — the memories that have meant the most to you personally in legal services? A particular client? A person you worked with? Case?

Steven Gottlieb:
I don’t know that any one thing exactly. I think my experience in Savannah was very important to me. And maybe in general that’s a very important memory. And it was important in a lot of ways. One is that I think I wouldn’t have been — I wouldn’t have been as rounded — as good at doing what I’m doing if I had stayed in Atlanta all that time. Because I would have gotten a perspective which wouldn’t have been tempered by anything else. And having gone to Savannah was good for me, because it forced me to get out of what I knew and take for granted and forced me to go circuit riding outside Atlanta. I used to go to McRae, Georgia, which is 122 miles from Atlanta in the middle of the state. And I was always worried, because here I was this northern Jew. And it got to the point where I would go often enough — which was only once a month — where they thought of me as their legal aid lawyer from Savannah, which was kind of amazing. And one of the better judges I’ve ever practiced before practiced in McRae, Georgia. So it not only — it helped me to realize that I could adjust to those kinds of things and broaden me in that way. It also broadened me, because we had a real crisis. And this goes back to Greg Dellaire. When I was in Savannah, there was a crisis around the state in Georgia — in regard to Georgia Legal Services — because there had been a change from the original founder of Georgia Legal Services — the director, Betty Kehrer — to Greg Dellaire, who came in as an outsider from Seattle and none of — none of the Georgia lawyers liked him and the board didn’t like him. And Savannah became the — the kind of focal point for that. Because we had a — an unfavorable bar down there, which had thought we oughtn’t be doing — not the controversial stuff; they weren’t concerned about that. They were concerned about us doing divorces and bankruptcies and taking money away from local lawyers. And so, they made a big stink about it. And they — in addition to having an unreceptive bar, they also had one particularly crazy lawyer there. And he decided he was going to champion the cause of rightness and justice — in his mind — and he sued us. And he sued me personally. He sued the program. And that was traumatic. I mean, here I was in Savannah by myself 250 miles from Atlanta. I wasn’t running the program. Had a director who didn’t have the support from the board. He didn’t give me the kind of support that I needed. And I was out there by myself. And we got by that — it’s not worth the long story — but we got by that. Although Greg didn’t, as it turns out, because I think that was really the reason he left. But we got by that. And I personally grew from that — the crisis of that — to realize that I could put up with it, that I could deal with it, that nothing was going to happen to me. And I think it just made me better to have to deal with that. And then, when I came back to Atlanta, I didn’t take things for granted anymore. I didn’t assume that everybody was going to be supportive. And coming back to a supportive bar was refreshing, but I have never ever completely forgotten the fact that it doesn’t always have to be that way. So I guess, if there’s any one time, I think that that change was a very valuable thing for me personally.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Do you think the center is successful now?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, let me give you a little bit of history. The — I’m very proud of what happened. Without getting into too much, after Vic and I talked, we ended up hiring Lisa. And then she, for a while, worked in both the regional office and in our program. And did some — some sessions for the Southeast, and did some training manuals and so forth. And at the same time created our first private bar campaign in 1983, right after the funding cutbacks in 1982. When the regional office got hostile, she just simply moved out of the regional office and continued to work for us. And we continued to do the work in Atlanta in our — the Legal Services Corporation then cut off our fund. They didn’t want to do that anymore. We were getting about $48,000 after the original cutbacks. It was a $60,000 grant, which turned into $48,000. And we continued to do the work anyway. We — clearly the work was always focused in Atlanta as a model, but Lisa continued to provide support to other programs in the field, because I felt it was important — I just — I liked the idea that we could contribute back to the Southeast. And I also liked the idea that people would view us as — as somebody to emulate. It made me feel good. A side note, by the way, on the legal services cutback funding. One of the other things that pleases me about it is that the way the re-authorization — actually, the re-appropriations — legislations was written in 1984 and ’85 said that they couldn’t change the funding of program unless they had a approved board. And so, in ’84, I told the regional director that I thought that they were illegally terminating our grant on the fundraising project. And, for about two years, they kept stonewalling me about it. And we finally had to threaten to sue them. And about ’86, we collected $117,000 for the two years that they refused to give us until they had a confirmed board. So just as a personal note of satisfaction — and that was — I thought that was good lawyering on my part to analyze that. But anyway — but the project itself continued to go on. And the funny part about it was that, after not thinking about fundraising very much and never having thought that I would have ever donated any resources in the program, I got the grant from the regional office. When the grant expired — when the Legal Services Corporation terminated it — there was not even a thought in my mind that we wouldn’t continue it. I never even asked the board whether we were going to continue it. It was just so much a part of our program by around ’84. And it was so clearly valuable, that it wasn’t something that I even thought about. And I wasn’t expecting to get the money back from the Legal Services Corporation. I just figured we’d continue to do it. The next chapter came — on the development of it came with Paulette. As I said, it’s people that make these kinds of things happen. Lisa left. We had an interim person who didn’t work as well, and then we hired Paulette ____. And Paulette is a real doer. And she took a couple of years to learn how we did things. And then decided she was going to take on the rest of the world. And I suggested to her that we try to get some kind of coordinated effort with the rest of the country, because I still felt that commitment to give something back and wanted to be a role model. And she just took it upon herself to hold a conference of similar kind of people — similar fundraising people — from legal services in Atlanta in 1988. We brought in folks from like Boston and Denver and a lot of other folks — some of whom had emulated our program, like Memphis and Louisville — not Memphis — Nashville and Louisville. And had a fundraising conference in Atlanta, which began the development of the formal — what was called, for want of a better word, fundraisers of legal services. And since that time, that project has had sessions and training and dragged in new people like Leanna Gipson, others folks. And has had such a successful track record that eventually it got the attention of the Ford Foundation and we got a grant to actually make a — in effect — a fundraising back-up center, which is housed in our office which is now fundraising project. So it’s become institutionalized even more than I ever would have figured. But it really — and Paulette really deserves a lot of credit for having done that. It was funny because there was such a natural group out there who just didn’t know each other. I mean, there were the Boston people and the Denver people, who had all been doing it independently who all new — and then when she got them together, they just — they just did it. It was just amazing. Good people.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What do you think the next chapter is going to be?

Steven Gottlieb:
The next chapter is ironic, I think. Why is it legal services promotes me using the word “irony” all the time? The next chapter is — one, it’s clearly going to continue, but the next — I don’t know that this is going to happen, but I think it’s a possibility and I certainly think I have to mention it. And that is that there was a board — Legal Services Corporation board resolution, which is the legal services board is now considering, about funding organizations to teach programs how to do their own local fundraising from non-federal sources. So what could be the ultimate irony of all of this is, we could get another grant for the Legal Services Corporation to do it again. The interesting development is that I’m not sure we’d take that grant, which is a very interesting change, I think. One of the things that this has caused me to think about was put better by Charlie Dorsey. He stopped focusing as much on the Legal Services Corporation. And the way Charlie put that, which is much better than I would have said it, is that you think of the Legal Services Corporation as another funding source — your major funding source, a large funding source, but just another funding source. And that’s the way we’ve begun to think, I think, because of the fact that we now go to the private bar, because we go to a lot of other — we go to IOLTA, we go to other federal sources. The Legal Services Corporation is not the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. The Atlanta Legal Aid Society was around a long time before the Legal Services Corporation was and will be around probably a long time after the Legal Services Corporation is. It is a funding source. And that’s an interesting perspective. And I think that has also come from doing diversified fundraising. They are becoming more and more irrelevant to us in some ways. [pause]. No more questions?

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Well, I have one more question. You’ve worked with a lot of different people in your legal services career. What are some of the personalities that really stand out in your mind?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, actually, in terms of the Savannah moments, I forgot to mention Dan Bradley, because that was really a dramatic thing. Dan was a dramatic part of that. In all of the travail that was going on, we ended up being sued. We removed that to federal court. And we had a hearing about whether we had — the basis of the suit was things like champerty and practicing law as a corporation and all kinds of crap which had nothing to do with what was really going on. And Dan came down from — from Atlanta — because he was a regional director in Atlanta at that time — to testify. And the reason he came to testify was, in order to determine whether you could remove, you have to be acting under the authority of a federal officer. And our theory for removal was that we were acting under the authority of — GLSP was acting under the authority of both OEO at that time, because it was before legal services, and HEW. And so, Dan came down as the regional director to talk about how they were under the control — we were under the control of the Feds. And the strongest recollection I have of Dan to this day was his testimony at that trial, because he was one of the most amazing witnesses that I had ever seen. The — he would be sitting like where I was and the judge would be sitting up here, and he would get into these colloquies with the judge. And he would talk about how the control — and he had brought just perfect kinds of things. He had brought a volume, which was a list of all of the regulations that controlled legal services. And it was just the list. And it was ethics. And he had — here he was with this demonstrated evidence of federal control. And then somebody asked — I think may have been the judge — about where they had actually taken back the federal funds or whether the property that was in the offices was federal property. And Dan chronologized going to — I think it was Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It was in northern Florida somewhere. And physically going there himself in a truck and packing up the office furniture and moving it out of this office that they had closed down, down to the paper clips. And I — to this day I remember it down to the paper clips. And, in fact, we had an appeal. And one of the things that I made sure we put in was in the brief talked about how Dan Bradley had gone there and loaded up the stuff down to the paper clips, just as an illustration — a real down-to-earth illustration of how — what the kind of control they have. He was just a wonderful, wonderful witness, which is not an easy thing to do. I mean, you could be a good lawyer and be a bad witness. In fact, that’s traditional. But Dan was just wonderful. And very supportive, needless to say. I mean, the idea that he came down at all really said something. But I remember him very, very well from that.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Do you have other memories of Dan Bradley?

Steven Gottlieb:
Yeah, not — not — nothing quite as dramatic. I knew Dan from the early days in Atlanta, because he lived in Atlanta for a long time. And I kind of knew him more distantly. I mean, as a friend kind of, but as a distant one. I remember where he used to live in Atlanta. But I didn’t really have very many dealings with him, because by the time I got really in a situation where I was responsible for the program, he was already almost legendary. The only other memory I have was that he was very worried — this is another dramatic kind of memory — he was very worried when the program decided we were going to take on representation of the Marielitos Cubans. And he was very concerned, because that happened in 1980. And it was a very tough time. And we had some conversations about that. And I told Dan that we were going to have to do it. We did it. But —

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What was his response?

Steven Gottlieb:
He was very worried about it. He was afraid he couldn’t sell that on the Hill. He would have been — he would have wanted us to find somebody else to do the case. What he convinced me to do — and he didn’t need to convince me — but what he — what he added to my conviction to do was to try to take as low a profile about that case as we possibly could. And for years that’s exactly what we did. We took a real low profile about that case.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Other people that you knew that you have particular memories about that you’ve worked with over the years.

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, it’s funny, because I — a lot of the people in the national level ended up coming from Georgia. And so, I met Clint, for instance, because we were both managing attorneys in Georgia Legal Services in the ’74-’76 era. And one of the dramatic memories I have of Clint was that, when Greg Dellaire decided he wanted to leave, because it was under pressure, he asked me and Vic and Clint — and Clint was running the Augusta office. And there was another fella who was working with Vic in Macon. And the four of us ended up traveling up to Atlanta to meet Greg at like 9:00 in the morning or something. And he wouldn’t tell us what it was about, but he wanted to meet us. And he wanted to tell us, because he thought we were, I guess, central to the program — that he was leaving, and that he thought it was better for the program, and that he didn’t like what was going on basically, but that he thought that that was the better way to go.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
What was going on?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, what was going on was that — that Greg had come in from Seattle and was not somebody that folks thought of as a good old boy from Georgia. And he was never accepted. I think folks always yearned after having Betty around. And they also saw John Cromartie, who was much much more of the kind of person that they felt comfortable with — for good reason. John was — I think John was Gainesville. And nobody just could deal with Greg. And Greg also decided he was going to come in and make changes. And he was going to decide that Savannah Legal Aid was not going to be called Savannah Legal Aid anymore; it was going to be called The Savannah Regional Office of the Georgia Legal Services program. And that’s where Greg was coming from, and that didn’t mix too well with — with the people who had tried to set up the Georgia Legal Services program. The other thing is that a lot of things came back to haunt Greg, which probably were not in Greg’s control. The Georgia Legal Services program had gotten created, I think, on a lot of promises to local bar associations that they would still be able to control the local offices. And Greg came into it in a situation where he — he didn’t make the promises. He didn’t think it was a good idea. I didn’t think it was a good idea. A lot of us didn’t think it was a good idea. But Greg ended up being the point-man on having to say to local bars, “Look, why can’t we do divorces?” I remember he and I and a local Savannah bar leader were up — he came down to kind of make peace. This was even before anything happened. And he was sitting — we were sitting in a restaurant — sitting across the table from this guy who was talking about how the Savannah bar and lawyers in Savannah always took care of poor people. And the way they took care of poor people was that — just like he was — the story he was telling us, which was poor old Joe who came in. He let Joe pay back the attorney’s fees at $10.00 a month. And the only thing he did was to get a mortgage on his house for $200.00 of the attorney’s fee. But he certainly — I mean, as long as he tried and paid it back at $10.00 a month, that was okay. It was a different kind of era. And Greg walked into a situation which he just — I just don’t think he expected or knew or probably could reasonably handle. And I don’t think he had the support of the previous director, which was another serious problem. So.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
So, when he decided to leave, he called the three of you to Atlanta.

Steven Gottlieb:
Yeah, right. And I remember me and Vic and Clint very distinctly sitting in his office. And then — it was funny, because Clint left pretty much after that, and Vic left pretty much after that. I stayed a little bit longer. I think I stayed mostly because I didn’t want to let anybody think that they could keep — tell me to leave. I mean, there was some of that that was going on no doubt in my mind. But I think I also realized that Savannah wasn’t the kind of place that I felt comfortable in. I could deal with it if I had to, but I didn’t feel comfortable. And it was that really Atlanta Legal Aid was where I had grown up, and it kind of like where I had to go back to.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Other memories of Clint?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, I mean, I had — I associated with Clint a lot after that. I don’t think too much different except for the fact that Clint’s always — Clint’s always had as his home Atlanta. And, of course, Clint and his wife have — had maintained two houses for 15 years now. And it always — standing joke is, “When is Alma?” That’s Clint’s wife. At first Alma put the house on the market. And then it was on the market for five years. And she was move to Washington any day. And then, after a while that fiction ended. And she realized — I mean, they both realized that they were going to maintain two households. And then he would come visit all the time. But, because he wasn’t around a lot, Alma would call me for legal advice. So I guess I nearly dealt with Alma sometimes as much as I dealt with Clint. But I dealt with Clint on the national level all the time. And, of course, in the regional conferences and national conferences and stuff. And mostly I think I dealt with Clint as much over poker as anything else over the years. Bucky was another person who obviously came from Georgia. And I have some particular memories of Bucky. The funny part about — one of the memories about Bucky is that — one of the early memories about Bucky was when he came to monitor our program in Atlanta Legal Aid. And the interesting part about it is that, there wasn’t anything bad, but being monitored by even somebody like Bucky has struck me as not the most pleasant experience. Even the good corporation. This is what — I use Bucky as an example of “Even the good corporation would cause you problems.” And, of course, Bucky is now back in Georgia in his role with the Georgia bar, which is where he belongs. So actually I think I dealt with those folks more when they were in Washington than I did when they were in Atlanta.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Any of the personalities that you had particular relationships with in legal services that had an impact for you personally?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, there were folks who obviously were related to Atlanta. And some of them are known nationally and some of them aren’t. Michael Terry was the director who, for — who was around for most of my formative years. The person who actually hired me was somebody that people wouldn’t know, but who was really — if he had been around for a longer period of time — would become — would have become a legend. His name was Michael Padnos. And it was very interesting, because Michael Padnos was one of these kind of guys who came in and decided he’s going to send the letters to the law schools to recruit these young whipper snappers and bring them down from the north. And Michael Terry kind of had to run the show after Michael Padnos left. So it was kind of like the Gene McCarthy Act 1, Act 2 precedents. And actually, both of them are — were important in my background in the sense that one, Padnos illustrated what it was to just kind of start things off and not be able to finish them. He lasted a year and a half. And then the board kind of — well, the board didn’t throw him out; the staff kind of threw him out. And then Terry was an illustration of somebody who knew how to keep things running but also stayed too long, which was a very — that was an important lesson, I think. You have to worry about that. He left on a very bad note. And people to this day kind of remember the end more than they remember the good things that he did. He ended up being in the regional office and probably not being very successful at that either. That’s one where you should ask Clint and Bucky and Vic; they have some real distinct memories of Michael Terry. So they weren’t really national folks, but they certainly were people who influenced me.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
You talked a little bit about your relationship with Vic.

Steven Gottlieb:
Mm-hmm.

Leanna Hart Gipson:
Anything else you want to share with us?

Steven Gottlieb:
Well, Vic and I go back a long way. And it’s — it’s a strange thing, because we’re very much different. And I think it’s an illustration of people who were very much different who become family after a while. And that’s the way we are. After starting in 1969 in Atlanta, our roots go back so far that we’re able to deal with one another on a level, I think, that I don’t think I would deal with — if I met a Vic today in my program, he would drive me crazy. And Vic would probably not be able to deal with somebody like me in his program. But, because we go back so far, it’s a different kind of thing. And the interesting thing about it is that, with Vic, I’ve had to re-learn the valuable things that he does. I think — I have a lot of regard for what he does. It’s very different from what I do. But I keep being reminded about how valuable what he does is, and how valuable his insight into some things is. He’s interesting, because his first reaction to things is so strong that .


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