Don Hollingsworth oral history, 1992

Became director of Center for Arkansas Legal Services in 1978. Extensive history of civil legal aid in Arkansas.

Oral history details

Storyteller: Don Hollingsworth
Interviewer: Carter-Turner, Jean
Date of interview: Jul 28, 1992
Where relates to: Arkansas and Tennessee
Topics: Civil legal aid: General, LSC: General, and OEO Legal Services
Law type: Civil
Collection: NEJL
Georgetown Law Library link (possible video): http://hdl.handle.net/10822/711858
Length: 1:17:56

Full text of transcript

Download PDF: Transcript

Georgetown University Law Center
National Equal Justice Library Oral History Collection
Interview with: Don Hollingsworth
Conducted by: Jean Turner-Carter
Interview date: July 28, 1992

Jean Turner-Carter: And the interview is being conducted in the Don CeSar in St. Petersburg, Florida. Jean Turner-Carter is conducting this interview. And the topic of the interview will be the legal services development in the state of Arkansas. Don, tell us a little bit about your background before you became involved in legal aid work.

Don Hollingsworth: I grew up in Arkansas and left there in the early 60’s to attend college and law school in Tennessee. And, before finishing law school, I spent a couple of years in Texas working with severely emotionally disturbed children in a group therapy program. And most of the work I did in the summer was with — in poor neighborhoods in Little Rock, Arkansas recreation directory — director sort of jobs, sort of thing. So pretty much we’re around poor folks and especially poor children prior to going into legal services.

Jean Turner-Carter: How did you become involved in legal services?

Don Hollingsworth: Pretty much influence of what was happening in our society. That’s one of the reasons I was in law school really talking — using the law as an effective means for — means of social change. And, of course, there was a lot of turmoil back at that time in the late 60’s, early 70’s. So there were more and more people going to law school at that time. And legal services was actually becoming an option in some places to do some effective work.

Jean Turner-Carter: Where did you start your legal aid career?

Don Hollingsworth: It was in Memphis, Tennessee in 1972. And that was a fairly brand new program at that time — been around — it was the last major metropolitan area in the country to get legal services. And I stayed there for six years, and then went to — in fact, came back to Arkansas to be the director of Center for Arkansas Legal Services in 1978.

Jean Turner-Carter: What was your initial impressions of legal aid work?

Don Hollingsworth: It was real exciting. You — everyone was fairly young but very energetic. A lot of talented people. There were a lot of injustices within the legal system and just local communities that were just sitting there waiting for poor people to have finally legal representation. And they were very obvious. I mean, they were walking in the door every day. So there was a lot to choose from in regard to helping poor folks. It was very unstructured — at least my experience was in Arkansas, in Tennessee initially. Did not have the structure that we have today. And that’s not to say that the early days were better than today, by any means, but it was a lot less structured and you were like a lawyer, a plaintiff’s lawyer that was turned loose to be, you know, the law firm for the poverty ___ .

Jean Turner-Carter: How did you get from Memphis back to Arkansas with your legal aid work?

Don Hollingsworth: The — I was looking for a change and wanted to try my hand to be an executive director in the — it just so happened at the same time the opening in Little Rock for executive director of Center for Arkansas Legal Services became available. The — an interesting story about that is that someone from the program talked to me, encouraged me to apply. The program had had some tough times previously, because they didn’t — no funding. One county program per years et cetera. But I came over, took a look at it — really had some good staff and good board members. So I was very much encouraged then to come and take the position.

Jean Turner-Carter: Tell us about the development of legal aid delivery in Arkansas before federal funding in 1965.

Don Hollingsworth: There — there wasn’t much. The — back in the 1930’s, former Supreme Court Justice, George Rose Smith, and some others put together a — sort of a part-time lawyer who on a half-time basis would serve some indigent people in civil matters in Pulaski County. And that was sort of a hit-or-miss operation that was the only one that was organized to any extent. The rest of legal aid at that time was whatever a local lawyer wanted to donate to someone that — you know, poor person they had contact with and all.

Jean Turner-Carter: After 1965 with federal funding from OEO, how did legal services delivery and programs change?

Don Hollingsworth: When ’65, the big change was that was the first time that there was any — any funding — federal funding, of course, in Arkansas. The Legal Aid Bureau of Pulaski County, as it was then known, was established in 1965 and was one of the first eight grants from OEO — the Office of Economic Opportunity — which was the entity providing the federal funding. One of the significant things about that was that there was a great deal of opposition to the establishment of legal services for poor in the South. That opposition was not unexpected, but in Little Rock, both people from the community as well as the legal profession really banded to together to support it. The Pulaski County Bar Association and a number of its leaders, together with what then was called the Pulaski County Health and Welfare Council. And they banded together to apply to OEO for a grant and to establish the Legal Aid Bureau. There are a number of people who were instrumental in that that were important. Couple of names that come to mind that were lawyers were Dick Williams, who was the first president of the legal aid bureau board and Bob Schultz, who’s another lawyer who played a legal role, because he not only was involved in bar association, but he was involved with the first community action agency that was — the grant went through. One of the local community people who’s still active in Little Rock on a number of important grassroots activities is Victor Ray. And he was one of the people that — especially behind the scene — was moving to make this work, to establish some neighborhood legal services in Pulaski County. The — unfortunately for Arkansas, between — during the days of OEO, which lasted till the mid 70’s, there was only one other county that ever got OEO funding, and that was the program in Newport, Arkansas, Jackson County. And there the bar association and some other local people banded together to get a grant in 1967. There was some opposition, but it was not — not opposition that really had any impact. The — some people will remember back in 1965 when OEO legal services got started, one of the older lawyers in Little Rock, a name by the — gentleman by the name of (?Shepherd?) — took out a large ad in the Arkansas Gazette proclaiming that the establishment of legal services for the poor was a communist threat and that Lyndon Johnson was going to be taking away the livelihood of lawyers in the state. But that — for the most part, it was fairly noncontroversial the first few years and all.

Jean Turner-Carter: From those OEO days, are there some people who stand out as directors or lawyers?

Don Hollingsworth: Oh, probably the person who, I guess, would stand out the most would be Grif Stockley, who joined the Legal Aid Bureau in the early 70’s and is still with what is now Center for Arkansas Legal Services. He would be someone who was very important. I think another thing we have to keep in mind is that, back in those days, we were very much short-handed, more so than today. They were very small operations. And so, you’re talking about people operating under pretty — pretty severe limitations, because there were such huge demands for services. The — a lot of the cases that were coming in were domestic relations cases. And, depending on what — what year you’d be talking about in the early days, the program might mainly handle domestic relations cases and all. Few other things that might be of interest in the early days was that, after the establishment of those two programs, there were some controversies that did develop. And the — one in particular had to do with suing the juvenile court in Pulaski County, which got a lot of people upset. Another one was filing lawsuits against the housing authority for unconstitutional practices and procedures. One of the early ones being not allowing unwed mothers in public housing — something that we wouldn’t even think of today, that we consider to be a basic — basic requirement. And it got pretty hot. And so, what happened eventually was the program in Little Rock — the Legal Aid Bureau did have some money from United Way. And there were several attempts to cut that funding off because United Way felt like the controversy that the legal services program was hurting their fundraising. And, if you go back and look at the newspaper clippings during that time, there was really support from the major media there for legal aid services. But eventually, the enemies prevailed and the United Way money got cut off to the program in Pulaski County. And it’s never been — never been restored at all. But, you know, there were — there were a number of people that came through legal services back then. Some of them are sitting on the bench now and stuff. Tom Glaze, who’s associate justice of the Supreme Court, worked in the Legal Aid Bureau back in the 60’s. But unfortunately back in those days, the money was so scarce and the salaries were so bad et cetera, that people didn’t stay very long. Nobody considered it to be a career at that time.

Jean Turner-Carter: Well, how did all that change with the expansion of the programs under the Legal Services Corporation Act?

Don Hollingsworth: Changed quite a bit. One — one change that took place shortly before, I guess, the Legal Services Corporation Act was, there was a legal aid program started in Fort Smith, Arkansas that was the predecessor to Western Arkansas Legal Services. And that sort of shows what was happening. That was in 1973, 1974. And that was happening at the — OEO really wasn’t even in existence then, but there was a caretaker at that point administering the funds. So right before LSC happened, that program got started and then became an LSC grantee. The — about {coughs} — excuse me — 1977 was when things — the LSC money started pouring into Arkansas and the expansion to serve going from two counties with OEO funding from LSC occurred during ’77, 1980 — those four years. The — besides the program in Newport, Legal Services of Northeast Arkansas, and the program in Little Rock, which is now Center for Arkansas Center for Arkansas Legal Services, five other programs came into being during that time. A program that was originally called Legal Services of Northwest Arkansas was established in Fayetteville. Hillary Clinton was a professor at the law school there, I believe, at that time — was one of the people instrumental in applying for an LSC grant, getting that program started. And Hillary wound up being on the LSC Board of Directors later — decade of the 70’s. East Arkansas Legal Services was established in West Memphis. And that one probably was the most controversial of the programs established — and still is, because there is going to be less natural support there except from the poverty community. Poverty community, there’s great support for East Arkansas Legal Services. But it had the roughest time probably getting underway. Western Arkansas Legal Services was what took the place of the one-attorney Legal Aid Bureau in Fort Smith. East Texas Legal Services expanded into four counties in Southwest Arkansas. And then your program, Legal Services of Arkansas, was the program that got started in the late 70’s that covers a good part of rural Arkansas. The — one of the things that was happening there was that people had a little bit of difference — differences of opinion on how legal services ought to be structured. Legal Services of Arkansas was to be about some people when it was initially incorporated as being sort of an umbrella program in Arkansas similar to what you have with Legal Services of North Carolina. That was never implemented as such, but LSA does have the state support center and other statewide activities for the state, which is very helpful. But it was — it was such a — such a fast growth for Arkansas just in those periods of years ’77 to 1980 to go from two counties to 75 counties. It meant an influx of money eventually. And it also meant that a lot of experimentation was going on and off. The — I can remember going into one of the rural counties that Center for Arkansas Legal Services expanded into and meeting with local lawyers. And one of the first questions I would get is, “Were — are you going to be here to do criminal cases?” And, when I said, “No,” they said, “Well, we don’t really care about you being here.” Oh, that would be a nice way to say for some lawyers. And the reason for that is, Arkansas has never had a public defender system statewide. And still even to this day has a patchwork system. And most rural counties do not have public defenders; they have private attorneys appointed to do the cases. And so, that — that — that was very much of a natural resentment that here we were with federal funds coming in to these counties to do representation of civil matters. And lawyers who wanted to see poor people helped were seeing what was happening in the criminal justice system and very disappointed. There were lawyers, obviously, who also did not want legal services coming in because of — “it might hurt them economically” was a fear. Or more — it could be ideology and all. In East Arkansas Legal Services, one of the stories from the late 70’s was the first black lawyer up in the Mississippi County area. They have a practice there — turned out to be an East Arkansas Legal Services lawyer who applied to be a member of the bar association. And the story, as it’s been related to me on several occasions, was that they had to have a special meeting to vote on whether that black attorney could become a part of the county bar association. That vote took place where they usually meet, and that was the country club, which allowed — did not allow blacks in there except as employees. We’ve come a long ways from that — from that time, obviously. But that — that was happening and all. The — the initial reception during that expansion from poor people was — was simply tremendous. The Legal Services Corporation held a series of public hearings, for example, and that was a requirement for you to get a grant for expansion into certain counties. And so, a number of those were held throughout the state. I could remember us having a hearing down in Arkadelphia, Clark County, that involved, I think, three different programs both Center for Arkansas Legal Services, East Texas, and it might have been — I’ll say I don’t remember — we had 150 people one evening down there, which was pretty large turnout when you think about it for that size a community and all. And there were a lot of lawyers that were very supportive and bar associations too that were supportive. Probably the biggest change that started happening though with that money coming in was that some of the case mix changed. I know Center for Arkansas Legal Services had gone through a period in the early or mid 70’s where you had a high-turnover staff. Most cases were divorces et cetera. And there came a period of time in the mid 70’s where some people really took hold of the program and said “You know, we’re here to do some other things for poor people. And some things that we ought to be doing that are more cost-effective to help larger numbers of poor people.” And the program really got turned — turned around. And you see some of the same pattern happening with the other programs that came into being — the new programs — where you were getting to more impact litigation, for example, for poor people. Even some legislative advocacy, administrative advocacy on a statewide basis. In Little Rock they even started a small organized pro bono referral program back in the mid or later 70’s. And so, a lot of activities like that was going on. The Ozark Legal Services was another example where they initially had to tackle some things — basic things, concepts in the local judicial system. They ran into a situation where a judge wanted to control what clients they could bring before him in court — and client eligibility or case type. Ozark Legal Services took that to the Arkansas Supreme Court, and that was a very important decision, because it said early on — even before all the expansion had taken place in the state — federal all made it very clear that Ozark Legal Services and the other legal services program was the entity that determined client eligibility, not someone else locally like the judicial system. And, if someone had difficulties with that, then they could go through the complaint procedure and go to the Legal Services Corporation about that. And so, that was an extremely important thing. But, you know, there was — there was a lot of interchange there both between the judicial system programs and the local bars. As we got in, you know, these sort of things developed. I could remember very clearly when I became director of Center for Arkansas Legal Services in 1978, one of the first cases that got resolved, that had been brought before I got there, was over an issue that we all take for granted now and that was the right of due process to people who were — the state’s trying to civilly commit — put away in an institution. Bill Clinton, who’s the current governor of Arkansas at that time was the attorney general. And the attorney general’s office and Center for Arkansas Legal Services and the other plaintiff’s lawyers in that case settled it. It had a comprehensive settlement order from federal court. And it basically set forth the due process rights and the right to counsel in particular for people who were in such civil commitment proceedings. Some of the judges that had to implement that law, I had not even had a chance to meet with and have initial visit with. So some of them, my first visit with them was to tell them that, “No, we would not do all the civil commitment cases.” Because their solution to the lawsuit was, “Well, you brought the lawsuit. You’re going to represent all these people that we have coming before us that need to be civilly committed.” It was not a pleasant thing to start off my relationship with some local judges telling them “no” — that we would not — that under the Legal Services Corporation Act and our system of case priorities, we could not allow a local judge to determine our case priorities. And I’ll never forget — one of my favorite judges, Judge Chestnut, who was the chancellor in Garland County, saying to me, “Well, you’re correct on the federal regulations et cetera, but you’re wrong otherwise. I helped get this program started in Garland County, expanded to Garland County, and now wish you weren’t here anymore.” That got resolved after a year or two anyway, and we became good friends. And he is probably one of the best trial judges in the history of Arkansas. But even with someone that — that talented, who had been a big support of legal services, those kind of rubs happened initially. They were unavoidable. What was, I think, Jean, was very important at that time by the programs — both the new programs and the two programs that had been there before — was that there were those basic — those basic concepts of the legal services program being a legitimate law firm for poor people who could do what needed to be done for poor folks. And would be independent of being controlled by the state or some other local entity politically. Otherwise, we would not have been able to do what we’d done for poor folks in large measure and all. The — might be interesting just to mention also — we had our other up’s and down’s during the early LSC days where the — some local bar associations filed ethics complaints. Center for Arkansas Legal Services had one filed against it by a rural bar that we initially expanded into, which had said that our outreach leaflet was unethical solicitation of clients. And, in fact, my memory is that the state ethics committee was actually looking at that as a serious complaint until the case from North Carolina in ’78 or ’79 that was handed by the U.S. Supreme Court — said that, “if you are not being paid, you can solicit whatever you want to solicit” — basically what they’re saying. But that was a serious complaint, and a lawyer had to be retained to fight that and all. The — but a lot of learning went on in those 70’s and stuff. And a lot of different methods were implemented and tried in regard to how you organize a legal aid office, community education, different models of reaching out to clients and involving them. One thing that was very helpful at that time, that we’d not had in most of the 80’s and definitely not in the 90’s, was the Legal Services Corporation, even though it was fairly new, was extremely helpful — two programs in Arkansas. And provide a lot of technical assistance, a lot of training, and would give a lot of basic support in some of the local controversies that occurred and also in regard to expansion. Different methods of expanding. So LSC, even though it was a parent entity that gave money to us and also was there to monitor us and regulate us, its tack at that point in its early days was, “We’re here to make you a better program. And we know you got inadequate resources and a lot of poor people helped when they were there.” Give you a couple of examples. One that I remember immediately — when I came from Tennessee to Arkansas as a new project director, nobody ever told me how to be an executive director. And that would be true, I think, of everybody who’s ever been the executive director of a program in Arkansas. There’s not a training program for it. I don’t know anything financially. The LSC regional office — one of their financial people came immediately and spent three days in my program sizing up our financial systems and telling me where the weaknesses were and where the strengths were. And that was invaluable — invaluable help. And back in those days you could get that kind of help. And it’s something that we sorely miss in some measures today and all.

Jean Turner-Carter: Are there any members of the LSC staff from those 1970’s — late 70’s days you can recall that were instrumental with the expansion effort?

Don Hollingsworth: Bucky Askew was for sure. Bucky was in the regional office and came to Arkansas on several occasions to help out in regard to expansion and other needs. The — Bucky probably precedes my time at Arkansas when I was in Tennessee. But there were other — Clinton Lions was also in Atlanta, and that was very helpful. Bucky probably was the main person in regard to Arkansas at that time. The other thing that I didn’t mention, Jean, I guess that — and it’s another reason why I took the job in Arkansas. Arkansas, Louisiana used to be with the LSC region that was — or the (?ODO?) region that was with Denver and Dallas of all things. And — and one of the things that happened, when LSC came to being eventually was, it got put with the South, with the other Southern states. And that was very important, because we have far more in common with Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia than we ever would with Colorado, New Mexico, or even Texas. And that’s been extremely helpful, because there’s been a lot of sharing within the region also on a lot of different matters and all. Before I forget it, one other thing that — that happened the late 70’s that showed what was going to evolve in Arkansas to some extent was that Center for Arkansas Legal Services, during its expansion, hired — well, created a position of a lobbyist and hired a lobbyist. And three other programs voluntarily contributed to some of the cost of that. It was a forerunner of the state support center in Arkansas. That was somewhat controversial back then, because it was hard even for some lawyers to understand that, as poverty lawyers, you need to use all the legal tools available for poor people, because you would still have that difference of opinion about what legal aid was about that was still evolving there. And some people wouldn’t like it when we filed a class action, obviously, because that was controversial. And you can imagine that some people thought, “Well, why would people poor people need a lobbyist? They don’t need to be doing that. What they need is a divorce or somebody to do a bankruptcy.” That sort of thing.

Jean Turner-Carter: Who was the name of that first lobbyist?

Don Hollingsworth: Tom (?McAllen?) who came to legal aid services of Arkansas with the state support center. I believe probably 1980-81 — something like that. And Tom’s been a long-term friend of legal services.

Jean Turner-Carter: Well, after the early — those expansion years, and then now legal services have been established throughout the state, describe the program development during the 1980’s.

Don Hollingsworth: That’s not easy to do probably, because so much happened. Things were going so fast, and a lot of good things were happening. And then, November 1980, Ronald Reagan got elected, and it was like the bottom fell out. People had to start then thinking about survival. So you had both — you had both this influx of new money to cover all the counties in Arkansas. And then, within a few months of that being completed in Arkansas, we had a president elected who said, “You ought to be abolished.” So it made for — made for an interesting situation. I can — I vividly remember when Ronald Reagan was elected and at the same time Bill Clinton lost his first bid to be reelected governor of Arkansas. Center for Arkansas Legal Services had a statewide — I mean a staff-wide retreat planned two weeks after that election. And I remember calling Hillary Clinton, because she was on the LSC Board of Directors. And we just changed our staff retreat agenda and asked Hillary to come out. It was one of the changes she did. And my point is that it was something that staff needed to hear. She said how important it was that people were still going to be around. Legal services was too invaluable to our country and why. And that was especially important coming from her being the spouse of someone who had just been defeated in his re-election bid for governor as well as being on the LSC Board of Directors, and she was going to be put off that board very shortly. And that’s how it got started. And so, when you talk about the development, there’s two tracks. There’s one — the whole issue of retrenchment that occurred. Starting in 1981 at the same time that you had other things developing later on. 1981, 1982 — you had two programs basically that had been well-established programs. Two of the three oldest programs that went through the retrenchment initially. That was Ozark Legal Services and Center for Arkansas Legal Services. And the reason they had is they had the least money. The other programs that were expansion programs for the most part had not been able to gear up services as fast, had not had their grants as long. And so, you had some programs with surplus money that the Legal Services Corporation encouraged them to wisely use and not just spend all at once. And here you had retrenchment starting. You knew you couldn’t hire everybody you wanted to hire, because your money wasn’t going to be there. You know, the money was going to be cut. So the question was, “How much?” So you had those sort of early hardships, especially Ozark Legal Services and Center for Arkansas Legal Services. The programs pulled together a lot in regard to that, and in regard to a lot of planning and setting up a support center and stuff. You had wound around that at the same time, I think, what would be the typical controversy among the legal services programs over what was most important. One of those being, “What do we do to help the national effort in regard to preserving quality legal services?” And in Arkansas, it was decided by a majority of the project directors that we should not tackle any issues that had to do with preserving class actions or legislative advocacy. That we should not say anything to our congressional delegation about that. That all we ought to do is try to survive. And that was probably reflection of the majority view in Arkansas at that time in regard to where legal services development was. The — the — that changed I think somewhat over the years, and is basically, you know, a reflection of local control in regard to where programs are situated and what their primary needs are and how they view what poor people need as lawyers and all. The establishment of the Arkansas Legal Services Support Center actually occurred in the early 80’s. And the — was one of the things that brought the programs in Arkansas together more than they’ve ever been in regard to joint training and other efforts. The importance of that cannot be overemphasized, I don’t think, in regard to more joint efforts between the programs, even though they’re all separate non-profit entities. That is where a lot of the jointness has occurred. The predominant method, I guess, in the ’80’s in regard to how legal services programs operated was through what’s called a staff-attorney model with variations on that. And the biggest development in the early 80’s probably would have been the establishment of pro bono referral programs in various locales around the state. Prior to then, there might have been one or two programs in the state that had had some type of organized pro bono, but it was very sporadic and didn’t have any resources devoted to it. Arkansas has actually been a leader in regard to pro bono referral programs — utilization of private attorneys. That might be a well-kept secret. It just so happens right now Arkansas ranks probably eighth in the United States in regard to the percentage of the private attorneys who participate in a pro bono program. That percentage is probably around 35% now, which is very significant. Back in the early ’80’s, in the mid 80’s, several pro bono referral programs were established that were all connected in one way or another with the legal services program — a program that’s known as VOCALS, Volunteer Organization for Center for Arkansas Legal Services, got started in Pulaski County in 1982. The — that is a joint venture with the Pulaski County Bar Association ___. And it along with the program that’s now been established at the Ozark Legal Services recipients of the Harrison Tweed Award from the American Bar Association and NLADA. There have been several other smaller pro bono programs including several more towns. And then the program that is — that reaches most of the counties in the state is called AVLE, Arkansas Volunteer Lawyers for the Elderly. And it is housed at Legal Services of Arkansas and is a joint venture between the young lawyer’s division of the Arkansas Bar Association. And what, five of the legal services programs. It is sort of a shame when you think about Arkansas getting this recognition for pro bono. AVLE has also announced a pro bono program and has been a terrific success. And since two other programs have gotten the Harrison Tweed Award, it might be several years before it can get it for that reason even though it’s very deserving of it. But that — that has been one of the — probably one of the more positive developments in Arkansas. And let me put that in context. There were people in Arkansas that very much wanted to see judicare play a large role in the state. And, while there’s nothing wrong with judicare, where you do have lawyers that will volunteer free and do it pro bono, that is far more cost-effective over the long haul. One of the most interesting developments in the involvement of private attorneys in Arkansas started back in the late 70’s with Ozark Legal Services. They had — they had a judicare supplement to their staff attorney model. And they’re 10 or 12 counties up in the northwest Arkansas. And they were very proud of that program. After several years though, they found through a study, that it was not cost-effective, and they dropped judicare. This was happening just before the Legal Services Corporation was taken over by people in 1981-1982 who were very much opposed to legal services for the poor. But, if it was still going to stay around, they wanted to turn it over to private attorneys totally and to volunteers from law school that they said could meet all the need. And to have a program doing away with private attorney involvement at that time was a little bit unusual in the state and in the country. But judicare has been developed too in other parts, and Legal Services of Arkansas was established to be a limited judicare program where it has both staff attorneys and a large number of judicare attorneys in its rural areas. And that’s very successful. I think one of the good things about — in Arkansas in this is that you’ve been able to experiment and you’ve had these different models and they’ve been able to work side by side. And, as I understand it in both the service area of LSA and several other programs, you have some people who may both be a judicare attorney and as well as a pro bono attorney at times, you know, which I think says a lot about how the program’s been operating in their relationships with the bars — local bar associations and lawyers and all. The — I guess, Jean, for the — when you talk about the 1980’s, you might want to help me some with this. We had a lot of things happen as far as — as far as client advocacy that had a big — probably the largest impact of what we — what was happening in the 80’s as far as program development. One of the areas where in Arkansas there had been severe and serious problems in deprivations of legal rights has been with children and their parents. Arkansas for many — well, until about five years ago, had a very antiquated juvenile court system. And the legal services programs were at the forefront of representing kids in juvenile court who — and their parents. There have been neglect cases, juvenile delinquency cases, this sort of thing. Everyone — everyone always thought that this was a terrible situation, but nobody was ever able to successfully do anything about it. And in the late 80’s, a case was brought that was taken up through initially the juvenile court — which was not a court of record and didn’t necessarily have to have a lawyer as the judge — up through then the trial court, circuit court, and eventually up the Arkansas Supreme Court. And that was probably one of the most outstanding pieces of advocacy done in the history of legal services, because the case, in effect, got the Arkansas Supreme Court to reverse a decision that it had made about 70 years ago and declare the entire juvenile court system of the state unconstitutional. And so, one case that did take a lot of planning and took a number of years, they were able to accomplish something that other people had been trying to accomplish for many decades and could not — and were not able to do so politically.

Jean Turner-Carter: What was the outcome of the — declaring the juvenile court system unconstitutional? How were legal services attorneys involved in shaping what came after it to replace it?

Don Hollingsworth: There were a number of legal services attorneys that — both directly and indirectly — participated in the formation of a new — a new support system — including a new juvenile code, set of statutes. And they spent almost I guess an entire year just on the committee appointed by the governor to come up with a new juvenile code. And there were several people from legal services programs involved in that. Had a temporary — a temporary system put in place at the Supreme Court’s decision. And then the next regular session of the legislature a whole new juvenile court system was established. And it was very important — that type of advocacy by the legal services lawyers was as important as the court case too. Because we had to make sure there was a good outcome. It’s one thing to get it thrown out. But that was the leverage that got the positive results was getting that done. And the same thing happened in the mental health system where it took a lot of — a large number of lawsuits and several major lawsuits to reform what was happening in our mental health institutions in the state of Arkansas and cleaning up some of the worst abuses — especially at the state hospital, dealing with both the conditions that a person with mental illness would find themselves in — just physical conditions at state institutions as well as the treatment plan and how you actually get released back into the community. And there have been legal services people that have done the same type of advocacy both in regard to litigation, and then also working with state officials in ways to improve that. And, of course, legal services advocates in the state have been involved with the rights of the disabled in regard to other issues — especially in regard to such things as disability benefits. Arkansas had the same situation a number of other states did back in the early 80’s where they found a large number of poor people all of a sudden being dropped from disability as a cost-saving measure. The federal government was taking another look at this disabled population and saying, “Well, a lot of you really aren’t disabled.” I’ll never forget the story in one of our offices where a lady came in with a portable oxygen tank that she always had to have with her because of her serious condition. And she had gotten one of the form letters from the Social Security Administration saying, “We have reviewed your medical file. You are no longer disabled.” That was one of the easiest cases we had to win obviously, but it was a sign of the times what was happening and all. Lot of people had other constitutional rights that had to be defended or even established. And that especially true in consumer areas where people in regard to their property being executed or wages garnished. A lot was done in regard to legal services there. In the rural counties, a lot of good work was done in regard to maybe local utility practices that were illegal by cities or counties, housing authorities, especially in regard to race discrimination. Legal services advocates have been at the forefront in Arkansas — especially rural Arkansas — defending the rights of people there. Voting rights cases too, especially in east and south Arkansas, were very very important for poor people to actually have a basic participation in our democratic system. Legal services played probably a significant role in the whole thing of getting a new domestic abuse act. Both supporting legislative efforts and then the court decisions that occurred on that. Legal services involved in both the first time the case was lost where the new act was declared unconstitutional as well as the follow-up decision where the new statute was held up later. But that’s very important to abused women in regard to their protection and all.

Jean Turner-Carter: And the outcome of that in the legislature was what?

Don Hollingsworth: We now — you can now go to — go to the trial court and get a protective order. You don’t have to have a lawyer. Extremely important that you have that quick access to the legal system — get that protection. And now, you don’t have to — a police officer does not necessarily have to witness the actual abuse in person. If there’s other evidence showing that it’s occurred recently, they can make an arrest. And then that’s another important facet of it and all. Probably the most significant case going on right now in Arkansas would be what’s called the child welfare litigation, which is to try to address the numerous problems we have in a poor state like Arkansas in regard to the investigation of child abuse and then what actually happens for those children when they’re in state custody as far as foster care. The quality of that protecting them from physical and mental abuse. Making sure that when possible they were reunited with their families. And if not, that there’s some permanency where they’re adopted or whatever. And, you know, Arkansas has had its share of a rash of problems just like other states have too. And legal services has been in the forefront. It’s also a good example of the use of back-up centers from legal services, because the National Youth Law Center’s been involved in that.

Jean Turner-Carter: You had told us earlier about the hostility among some private bar and the development of legal services. And then also the development of pro bono and other private attorney involvement projects in the early 80’s. How would you describe the current relationship between legal services programs and the private bar?
Don Hollingsworth: I would say it was excellent in Arkansas. And that’s from the Arkansas Bar Association down to most local bar associations. That has not always been true. And it took many years. I can give you an example of — back in the 70’s — where a local bar association was very unreceptive to expansion into that area where they even passed a resolution against legal services and today has one of the best pro bono programs in connection with the legal services program. And does excellent work, and very very supportive and all.

Jean Turner-Carter: And you mentioned, of course, the two American Bar Association awards for pro bono program.

Don Hollingsworth: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Jean Turner-Carter: In talking about particular people who had been instrumental in legal services, who are some of the private bar members that stand out in your memory?

Don Hollingsworth: Probably the most important person would be Vince Foster who has been involved just about in every aspect of the development of legal services in the state except back in the 60’s. But from the early 70’s on, he has been on the board of Center for Arkansas Legal Services, of LSA, including president of LSA’s board. He was instrumental in the formation of the first large pro bono program, VOCALS, in Pulaski County. He’s on the board now of the Arkansas IOLTA Foundation. And he has been honored by the bar. He’s been someone who, both behind the scenes as well as out front, has done a lot. When we’re talking about Bucky Askew a while ago there back in 1977. Bucky came to Arkansas to help in regard to expansion and went with Vince Foster. And then the director of Center for Arkansas Legal Services, Grif Stockley, to Pine Bluff to meet with the bar association. And they ran out of gas going down to Pine Bluff. And so, Vince had to walk quite a ways to get gas. It turned out to where that first time around the local bar was not that supportive, but that didn’t deter Vince or, you know, other people hung in there. And has always been very supportive and all.

Jean Turner-Carter: Are there any other personalities and legal services that you haven’t talked about who’ve been instrumental either in the development or the accomplishments of legal services?

Don Hollingsworth: Probably two other people, who incidentally both grew up in Marianna, Arkansas, which is over in east Arkansas. Grif Stockley, who’s the director of litigation for Center for Arkansas Legal Services, who I mentioned previously. He — he has been — his hand has been involved in probably 75% of the major litigation that’s been litigated before the Arkansas Supreme Court on behalf of poor people. And he is one of those tenacious legal services lawyers who has great dedication and commitment to the mission of legal services and has done that. Another person who was a client with East Arkansas Legal Services, (?Romy?) Campbell, who unfortunately died in a car accident several years ago. She was a leader especially in east Arkansas in regard to clients being more involved in their local communities and working with East Arkansas Legal Services on the board there. And she, I think, is a good example of that type of client involvement and how important it was especially in the early days.

Jean Turner-Carter: Now, here in the early 90’s after all of that, what do you see are the major challenges that legal services programs in Arkansas are facing?

Don Hollingsworth: Oh, the biggest challenge probably is just resources. How will the programs in Arkansas secure additional funding and other types of resources to make it to the year 2000? The federal funding is going to be very static at best. And Arkansas, being a very poor state, does not have a lot of other funding options like is true in a number of states around the country. So that is something that the legal services program’s going to have to really work hard on. Whether you’re talking about more joint efforts or actually program consolidation. Something’s going to have to be done there to maintain quality and also expand things. One of the things that Arkansas has not done as well as it should in the last ten years because again of a lack of resources is to have done more legislative and administrative advocacy for poor people. Solving some of those problems that maybe you can solve through the legislative administrative body that you could wind up spending, you know, time on thousands of cases during the same period of time, individual cases, and never get it resolved for the client. But you do it with one legislative enactment that sort of thing. And I guess the other challenge will be how you utilize new technology and other new methods of representing poor people — whether that’s alternative dispute resolution, which is going to come. The question is “How is it going to impact poor people?” More developments with regard to pro se methods of people helping themselves. Those — the program’s going to have to face those challenges. And deal with them in a way that will be satisfactory and fair to poor people where they will not revert to second-class citizens as far as the judicial system. But, if the legal services don’t do that, I’m not sure who else will do it. It will be incumbent on them to somehow have the resources to do that.

Jean Turner-Carter: After your years in — now 20 years in legal services, what do you think the rewards have been for you for choosing a legal aid career?

Don Hollingsworth: Oh, there have been a number of rewards, I guess. Just seeing poor people secure their piece of the justice system, I guess. That some of the court decisions we were talking about — whether we have to do with juvenile court or protecting battered women. Those are very important, but I think what makes me the proudest is the fact that you can have an established program now where just your presence there in that community is a safeguard for poor people. Where it’s almost like a prevention there. There are certain people now who no longer are going to try to take advantage of poor people because we’re actually there. And they know we’re very good lawyers. And they know that if they do certain things, they’re going to have to pay for it. That’s very rewarding to me, because you’re — so many of the poor people today are quite vulnerable. And, without us, they wouldn’t have a chance. And I think — I think the other thing that’s been very rewarding has been the people in legal services programs. They’re a very special group of people, very dedicated, and people who obviously are not in it for the money and who combine their efforts and their talents for a common purpose. Not everybody can say that these days when you talk about job satisfaction, and that’s pretty special.

Jean Turner-Carter: Is there any final piece of advice or words you want to add?

Don Hollingsworth: Oh. I think — I think that the only thing I would maybe finish with is, while the early 70’s, mid 70’s were very exciting in what you could do for poor people and then you look where we evolved, it is good that today we are a lot more deliberate in how we use our resources. We probably make more rational decisions and when we look down — you know, the long haul, down the next decade or so, we’re going even to have to improve upon that. And that’s something I think we have to keep in mind, because we’re never going to have the resources we need to do everything we need to do for poor people. And we’re very much going to need to make those kind of choices.

Jean Turner-Carter: Thank you very much, Don.

Don Hollingsworth: Thank you.


END